On September 15, the Federal Trade Commission held a workshop entitled “Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion?” FTC Commissioner Julie Brill took the opportunity to discuss an industry that she has consistently maintained requires more regulation and scrutiny: data brokers.
Commissioner Brill stressed first that the FTC is very focused on entities regulated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), and reminded the audience that those entities will be held to the law by the agency. Those entities that are not subject to the FCRA are not off the hook: companies that engage in profiling, or “alternative scoring,” should take a very critical look at what they are doing, since alternative scoring has the potential to limit an individual’s access to credit, insurance, and job opportunities. Brill noted that the FTC’s May 2014 report focused on transparency, and called for legislation to make data brokers accountable – thoughts she echoed during Monday’s workshop.
Finally, Commissioner Brill stressed that all companies would be well-advised to see if their own big data systems cause problems that ultimately exacerbate existing socioeconomic conditions. She reiterated that companies should use their systems for good, and have a role in spotting and rooting out discrimination and differential impact. You can find the text of her full speech here.