An excellent editorial by Alistair Croll on the civil rights implications of Big Data contains a number of points I hadn't considered before, as well as great analysis of the way that the Big Data situation arrived:
“Personalization” is another word for discrimination. We’re not discriminating if we tailor things to you based on what we know about you — right? That’s just better service.
In one case, American Express used purchase history to adjust credit limits based on where a customer shopped, despite his excellent credit limit:
Johnson says his jaw dropped when he read one of the reasons American Express gave for lowering his credit limit: “Other customers who have used their card at establishments where you recently shopped have a poor repayment history with American Express.”
We’re seeing the start of this slippery slope everywhere from tailored credit-card limits like this one to car insurance based on driver profiles. In this regard, big data is a civil rights issue, but it’s one that society in general is ill-equipped to deal with.
We’re great at using taste to predict things about people. OKcupid’s 2010 blog post “The Real Stuff White People Like” showed just how easily we can use information to guess at race. It’s a real eye-opener (and the guys who wrote it didn’t include everything they learned — some of it was a bit too controversial). They simply looked at the words one group used which others didn’t often use. The result was a list of “trigger” words for a particular race or gender.
Big data is our generation’s civil rights issue, and we don’t know it
“The End of the Internet Dream,” cyberlawyer Jennifer Granick’s keynote at Black Hat, was all anyone could talk about at this year’s Defcon — Black Hat being the grown-up, buttoned-down, military-industrial cousin to Defcon’s wild and exuberant anarchy.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation always has a huge presence at Las Vegas’s DEFCON, but this year, we’re hosting our first-ever badge-hack contest!
Previous winners include Edward Snowden, Carl Malamud, Limor Fried, Laura Poitras, Hddy Lamarr, Aaron Swartz, Gigi Sohn, Bruce Schneier, Zoe Lofgren, Glenn Greenwald, Jon Postel and many others (I am immensely proud to have won one myself!).
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