Advocacy groups tout big-data civil rights rules

A consortium of 14 civil-liberties and other advocacy groups have come up with a list of civil rights principles for the big-data era.

The organizations – including the American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP, National Council of La Raza and Common Cause – said the principles are needed because of the vast array of new data-gathering technologies.

Declaring it “vitally important that these technologies be designed and used in ways that respect the values of equal opportunity and equal justice,” the groups said these principles are essential:

“Stop High-Tech Profiling. New surveillance tools and data gathering techniques that can assemble detailed information about any person or group create a heightened risk of profiling and discrimination. Clear limitations and robust audit mechanisms are necessary to make sure that if these tools are used it is in a responsible and equitable way.

“Ensure Fairness in Automated Decisions. Computerized decisionmaking in areas such as employment, health, education, and lending must be judged by its impact on real people, must operate fairly for all communities, and in particular must protect the interests of those that are disadvantaged or that have historically been the subject of discrimination. Systems that are blind to the preexisting disparities faced by such communities can easily reach decisions that reinforce existing inequities. Independent review and other remedies may be necessary to assure that a system works fairly.

“Preserve Constitutional Principles. Search warrants and other independent oversight of law enforcement are particularly important for communities of color and for religious and ethnic minorities, who often face disproportionate scrutiny. Government databases must not be allowed to undermine core legal protections, including those of privacy and freedom of association.

“Enhance Individual Control of Personal Information. Personal information that is known to a corporation — such as the moment-to-moment record of a person’s movements or communications — can easily be used by companies and the government against vulnerable populations, including women, the formerly incarcerated, immigrants, religious minorities, the LGBT community, and young people. Individuals should have meaningful, flexible control over how a corporation gathers data from them, and how it uses and shares that data. Non-public information should not be disclosed to the government without judicial process.

“Protect People from Inaccurate Data. Government and corporate databases must allow everyone — including the urban and rural poor, people with disabilities, seniors, and people who lack access to the Internet — to appropriately ensure the accuracy of personal information that is used to make important decisions about them. This requires disclosure of the underlying data, and the right to correct it when inaccurate.”

Illustration by Jeff Durham/Bay Area News Group

Steve Johnson Steve Johnson (225 Posts)

Steve Johnson covers the microchip industry, cyber security and the big-technology sector that includes Hewlett-Packard, Oracle and Cisco Systems.