Today, the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) joined 42 other civil society organizations in a letter to Congress calling on legislators to protect civil rights, equity, and equal opportunity in the digital ecosystem. As members of Congress continue to hold hearings and introduce legislation on digital privacy, they must address the data security and privacy abuses that disproportionately harm marginalized communities. These harmful practices include housing and employment discrimination in online advertising and exploitative notice-and-choice practices. The letter urges lawmakers to ensure that any new privacy legislation be consistent with the Civil Rights Principles for the Era of Big Data, which were released in 2014 and are just as applicable in today’s online ecosystem.
“Today’s letter demonstrates that a large community of civil rights, civil liberties, and consumer groups will hold lawmakers accountable for addressing discriminatory data practices in any privacy bills they introduce,” said CDT Policy Analyst Natasha Duarte. “We are here to help lawmakers address these issues.”
As the letter states, online services should not be permitted to use consumer data to discriminate against protected classes or deny them opportunities in commerce, housing, employment, or full participation in our democracy. In December, CDT published draft legislation to curb privacy-invasive, exploitative, and discriminatory uses of data.
“The old notice-and-choice model of protecting privacy unfairly burdens users, and particularly minority and underrepresented groups,” Duarte said. “People should not be able to sign away basic privacy or civil rights protections.”