In the news

U.S. PIRG
|
The Nation
By
Astra Taylor and Jathan Sadowski

In their story appearing in the 15 June issue of The Nation Magazine, "How Companies Turn Your Facebook Activity Into a Credit Score: Welcome to the new Wild West of data collection without regulation,"  authors Astra Taylor and Jathan Sadowski explain the world of digital data tracking and digital redlining made possible by secret Big Data algorithms: 

"With the sheer quantity of data that can be collected online, FICO scores are just the tip of the iceberg. “Now the system has exploded, where you’ve got all these actors that you don’t actually have a relationship with: network advertisers, data brokers, companies that are vacuuming up information,” says Ed Mierzwinski, consumer-program director at the United States Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG). This information comes from sources both online and off-line: Thousands of data brokers keep tabs on everything from social-media profiles and online searches to public records and retail loyalty cards; they likely know things including (but not limited to) your age, race, gender, and income; who your friends are; whether you’re ill, looking for a job, getting married, having a baby, or trying to buy a home. Today, we all swim in murky waters in which we’re constantly tracked, analyzed, and scored, without knowing what information is being collected about us, how it’s being weighted, or why it matters—much of it as irrelevant and inaccurate as the hearsay assembled during the early days of consumer reporting."

Read more in The Nation. In addition to citing our ground-breaking work in this area, the story also includes analysis by Professor Frank Pasquale, author of “The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information.” (Harvard University Press, January 2015).

Frank joined me, our co-investigator Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy, Alexis Goldstein of the Other98.com, Sarah Ludwig of the New Economy Project-NYC, Jessica Rich of the FTC and Peggy Twohig of the CFPB for a recent livestream event "Looking at the Black Box Society." We've posted the event video, in 3 chapters, here on our Youtube page. This page is the home for our "Digital Data and Consumer Protection" project, which includes links to our reports and other activities.

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