In Depth Equality sign at rally

Published on October 23rd, 2014 | by Daniel Castro


Big Data is a Powerful Weapon in the Fight for Equality

Many individuals have made the claim that big data might lead to more discrimination if algorithms unfairly disadvantage certain groups in their decision-making. For example, an online retailer might offer one price to Asian customers and another price to Latino customers. Most notably, this idea appeared in the White House big data review led by John Podesta, where the final report stated that “An important conclusion of this study is that big data technologies can cause societal harms beyond damages to privacy, such as discrimination against individuals and groups.” This idea was also the subject of a recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) workshop exploring what FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez termed “discrimination by algorithm.” While this type of discrimination is plausible, there are many compelling reasons why it may never come to pass. Moreover, the focus on how big data might be used to harm individuals has overshadowed the bigger opportunity to use data as a new tool in the fight for equality.

Continue reading on The Hill.

Photo credit: Flickr user Rich Renomeron

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About the Author

Daniel Castro is the director of the Center for Data Innovation and vice president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Mr. Castro writes and speaks on a variety of issues related to information technology and internet policy, including data, privacy, security, intellectual property, internet governance, e-government, and accessibility for people with disabilities. His work has been quoted and cited in numerous media outlets, including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, USA Today, Bloomberg News, and Businessweek. In 2013, Mr. Castro was named to FedScoop’s list of “Top 25 most influential people under 40 in government and tech.” In 2015, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker appointed Mr. Castro to the Commerce Data Advisory Council.Mr. Castro previously worked as an IT analyst at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) where he audited IT security and management controls at various government agencies. He contributed to GAO reports on the state of information security at a variety of federal agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). In addition, Mr. Castro was a Visiting Scientist at the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he developed virtual training simulations to provide clients with hands-on training of the latest information security tools. He has a B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and an M.S. in Information Security Technology and Management from Carnegie Mellon University.

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