Civil Rights and Big Data

big-data-whitehouse-reportBlogger’s note: We’ve posted several articles on the bias and prejudice inherent in big data, which with machine learning results in “machine prejudice,” all of which impacts humans when they interact with intelligent agents. 

Apparently, as far back as May 2014, the Executive Office of the President started issuing reports on the potential in “Algorithmic Systems” for “encoding discrimination in automated decisions”. The most recent report of May 2016 addressed two additional challenges:

1) Challenges relating to data used as inputs to an algorithm;

2) Challenges related to the inner workings of the algorithm itself.

Here are two excerpts:

The Obama Administration’s Big Data Working Group released reports on May 1, 2014 and February 5, 2015. These reports surveyed the use of data in the public and private sectors and analyzed opportunities for technological innovation as well as privacy challenges. One important social justice concern the 2014 report highlighted was “the potential of encoding discrimination in automated decisions”—that is, that discrimination may “be the inadvertent outcome of the way big data technologies are structured and used.”

To avoid exacerbating biases by encoding them into technological systems, we need to develop a principle of “equal opportunity by design”—designing data systems that promote fairness and safeguard against discrimination from the first step of the engineering process and continuing throughout their lifespan.

Download the report here: