Activists push to curb 'data discrimination' in US legislation

February 13, 2019
US lawmakers are vowing to consider new online privacy legislation after hearing from tech leaders, including an April 2018 session with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

More than 40 activist organizations urged Congress on Wednesday to ensure "digital civil rights" in any regulations imposed on the tech industry as lawmakers consider privacy legislation.

The groups sent a letter to key legislators urging them to ensure civil rights principles and curb data-driven discrimination in any new regulations.

The letter said online services should not be permitted to use consumer data to discriminate against certain groups or deny them opportunities in commerce, housing or employment.

The move comes with lawmakers poised to consider proposals to regulate how online platforms collect and share , following a series of data protection scandals and the enactment of sweeping rules in the European Union.

"Civil rights protections have existed in brick-and-mortar commerce for decades," said the letter endorsed by groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Consumer Federation of America and the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

"It is time to ensure they apply to the internet economy as well."

Natasha Duarte of the Center for Democracy & Technology, another of the signatory groups, said the letter "demonstrates that a large community of civil rights, and will hold lawmakers accountable for addressing discriminatory data practices in any privacy bills they introduce."

"Far too often we have seen platforms and discriminate against people of color and other marginalized groups in various facets of their lives," added Alisa Valentin of the consumer group Public Knowledge.

"In order to create and sustain an equitable society in the digital age, it is imperative that civil rights protections are incorporated into comprehensive privacy legislation."

Others endorsing the letter included the NAACP, Human Rights Campaign, the Algorithmic Justice League, Asian Americans Advancing Justice and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

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