People may be paying more for products based on their age or the color of their skin, White House officials fear.
Businesses are increasingly collecting vast amounts of data on consumer behavior and assembling detailed profiles on individuals. That data could lead companies — either intentionally or inadvertently — to discriminate against people in pricing, employment, housing, health care, or other opportunities, the White House said in a report Thursday.
John Podesta, a senior adviser to President Obama who led the “big data” review group that prepared the report, warned that new data-mining practices threaten to “circumvent long-standing civil-rights protections.”
The report urges government agencies to improve their technical expertise so they can better spot and crack down on illegal discrimination that relies on data collection.
Firms can track which products people buy, the websites they browse, the emails they read, and even their GPS location. That information can help target more relevant ads — such as a promotion for a horror film.
But the White House pointed to one study which found that people who search for “black-identifying” names are more likely to be shown ads with the word “arrest” than people who search for “white-identifying” names. Government services aimed at people using smartphone apps could disadvantage the poor or elderly (who are less likely to have smartphones), the officials warned in the report.
“‘Big data’ isn’t just a privacy issue — it’s also a civil-rights issue,” Seeta Peña Gangadharan, a senior research fellow with the New America Foundation, said in a statement applauding the White House report.
“New technologies enabling massive data collection and analysis promise many economic and practical benefits, but they also have a dark side, creating new risks of data-driven digital discrimination and the reinforcement of existing inequalities through automated decision-making.”
The report also reiterates the White House’s support for the “Privacy Bill of Rights” — a set of principles the White House outlined in 2012 for how online firms should handle personal information. The White House urged Congress to enact the principles into law at the time, but the issue has gone nowhere on Capitol Hill.
Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker announced Thursday that her department will work with businesses and privacy groups to develop legislative language for the principles.
The Obama administration also announced plans to expand some federal privacy protections to people outside the United States. The Privacy Act of 1974 currently grants U.S. citizens rights to access certain information that the government collects about them.
But the review doesn’t address National Security Agency surveillance. Obama announced the review group of “big data” issues in the same speech in January when he outlined reforms to the NSA. Podesta explained that the president believed “big-data technologies had to be having an impact elsewhere.”
Although the White House is pushing for more privacy-protection laws, officials emphasized that the collection and use of large amounts of data can also lead to innovative new services and boost the economy.
For example, data can help doctors analyze and combat diseases or help scientists better understand climate change, the White House said.
“We begin by recognizing that the United States is a leader in the field of big data and we want to ensure that continues,” Pritzker said.
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When it comes to name-calling among America's upper echelon of politicians, there may be perhaps no greater spat than the one currently going on between Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump. While receiving an award Tuesday night, she continued a months-long feud with the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. Calling him a "small, insecure moneygrubber" who probably doesn't know three things about Dodd-Frank, she said he "will NEVER be president of the United States," according to her prepared remarks."We don't know what Trump pays in taxes because he is the first presidential nominee in 40 years to refuse to disclose his tax returns. Maybe he’s just a lousy businessman who doesn’t want you to find out that he’s worth a lot less money than he claims." It follows a long-line of Warren attacks over Twitter, Facebook and in interviews that Trump is a sexist, racist, narcissistic loser. In reply, Trump has called Warren either "goofy" or "the Indian"—referring to her controversial assertion of her Native American heritage.
The House on Tuesday voted 403-12 "to pass an overhaul to the nation’s chemical safety standards for the first time in four decades. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act aims to answer years of complaints that the Environmental Protection Agency lacks the necessary authority to oversee and control the thousands of chemicals being produced and sold in the United States. It also significantly clamps down on states’ authorities, in an effort to stop a nationwide patchwork of chemical laws that industry says is difficult to deal with."
"Leaders of the Republican Party have begun internal deliberations over making fundamental changes to the way its presidential nominees are chosen, a recognition that the chaotic process that played out this year is seriously flawed and helped exacerbate tensions within the party." Among the possible changes: forbidding independent voters to cast ballots in Republican primaries, and "doubling the number of early states to eight."
Citing the unpredictable nature of this primary season and the possible leverage they could bring at the convention, John Kasich is hanging onto his 161 delegates. "Kasich sent personal letters Monday to Republican officials in the 16 states and the District of Columbia where he won delegates, requesting that they stay bound to him in accordance with party rules."
"Speaker Paul Ryan is changing the rules of how the House will consider spending measures to try to prevent Democrats from offering surprise amendments that have recently put the GOP on defense. ... Ryan announced at a House GOP conference meeting Tuesday morning that members will now have to submit their amendments ahead of time so that they are pre-printed in the Congressional Record, according to leadership aides." The change will take effect after the Memorial Day recess.