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Today, 26 civil society organizations sent a letter to Congress calling on legislators to ensure that any federal privacy legislation address the discriminatory impacts of commercial data practices and protect people of color, women, religious minorities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, persons with disabilities, persons living on low income, immigrants, and other vulnerable populations.

“Personal data are the raw materials that fuel discrimination,” the groups told Congress. “For too long, corporations have ignored the digital pollution that their commercial data practices generate; they must be held accountable for the negative externalities of their business models.”

The exploitation of personal information disproportionately harms marginalized communities. The letter provides extensive documentation of the ways in which privacy abuses enable voter suppression, digital redlining, discriminatory policing, retail discrimination, digital inequity, amplification of white supremacy, identity theft, and the endangerment of personal safety.

To help address these harms, empower consumers, and promote equal opportunity for all in the modern public square and marketplace, the groups urge Congress to pass comprehensive privacy reforms that include the following provisions:

  • Prohibit the use of personal data to discriminate in employment, housing, credit, education, or insurance—either directly or by disparate impact.
  • Prohibit the use of personal data to discriminate in public accommodations and extend such protections to businesses that offer goods or services online.
  • Prohibit the use of personal data to engage in deceptive voter suppression.
  • Require companies to audit their data processing practices for bias and privacy risks.
  • Require robust transparency at two tiers: easy-to-understand privacy notices for consumers, and comprehensive annual privacy reports for researchers and regulators.
  • Enable researchers to independently test and audit platforms for discrimination.
  • Empower a federal agency with rulemaking authority, enforcement powers, and enough resources to address current and future discriminatory practices.
  • Provide individual rights to access, correct, and delete one’s personal data and inferences made using that data.
  • Provide a private right of action, because marginalized communities historically have not been able to rely upon the government to protect their interests.
  • Establish baseline nationwide protections and allow states to enact stricter laws. Do not preempt state civil rights laws under any circumstances.

Read the full letter here.

The letter was signed by the following organizations:

 

Access Now

Center for Digital Democracy

Center for Media Justice

Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law

Color of Change

Common Cause

Consumer Action

Consumer Federation of America

Demand Progress Education Fund

Demos

Free Press Action

Human Rights Campaign

Impact Fund

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition

National Consumer Law Center, on behalf of its low-income clients

National Hispanic Media Coalition

National Urban League

New America’s Open Technology Institute

Open MIC (Open Media and Information Companies Initiative)

Public Citizen

Public Justice Center

Public Knowledge

Southern Poverty Law Center

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

United Church of Christ, OC Inc.

About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Now in its 56th year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is continuing its quest to “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights.

Contact
Reynolds Graves, Lawyers’ Committee, [email protected], 202-662-8375