Unified Privacy, Civil Rights and Consumer Protection Strategy Needed Worldwide, New Paper Argues
Washington, D.C. — The world needs a unified and coherent strategy that incorporates privacy, civil rights and consumer protections into digital products and services as AI becomes ubiquitous, according to a new paper authored by the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and TechEquity Collaborative.
Developing this strategy has been challenging to date because of one central tension: a privacy advocacy position arguing minimization of individual consumer data collected is the best practice versus a historic civil rights approach where certain personal data should be collected to test data products and services for discrimination.
“Our research explores this tension and makes the case that the right to privacy and the ability to collect information to ensure data products and services are not discriminatory can work together by first adopting a baseline data minimization framework that requires a legitimate business case for the data collection,” said Dr. Michael Akinwumi, NFHA’s Chief Tech Equity Officer. “This tension is difficult to balance in the United States due to lack of a federal privacy legislation and is even more so palatable in the European Union where existing legislation such as GDPR and the AI Accountability Act coexist. It is crucial that companies who have received consent to collect sensitive information for anti-discrimination testing apply Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs) to secure the collected information in tandem with a data minimization framework.”
“The current model of privacy law gives much responsibility and very little power to the individual. Individual people, who have no insight into the algorithms making decisions about them, are the ones that are required to investigate and redress harm done to them,” said Samantha Gordon, Chief Program Officer at TechEquity Collaborative. “We need to shift the onus of protecting privacy and preventing discrimination to companies and regulators—those with the greatest power and responsibility to do so.”
The paper, “Privacy, Technology, and Fair Housing – A Case for Corporate and Regulatory Action” was released Tuesday. The organizations have also planned a virtual panel discussion for September 14, 2023, which will include several fair housing, technology, and privacy experts.
The paper outlines three recommendations necessary to ensure that the balance of privacy and civil rights is appropriately applied to reduce harm and ensure housing access for all:
- Shift responsibility from the individuals to companies and regulators.
- Strengthen the review of technologies prior to their use on the public.
- Develop an intersectional approach to design and regulate tools and models.
The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) is the country’s only national civil rights organization dedicated solely to eliminating all forms of housing and lending discrimination and ensuring equal opportunities for all people. As the trade association for over 170 fair housing and justice-centered organizations and individuals throughout the U.S. and its territories, NFHA works to dismantle longstanding barriers to equity and build diverse, inclusive, well-resourced communities.
TechEquity Collaborative addresses inequities within tech and inequities as a result of its products and models. We do this by educating tech workers and companies on housing and labor issues, advocating for structural public policy change, and developing ethical corporate practice guides for value-aligned industry actors.