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NTIA Launches Inquiry on how Data Practices Affect Civil Rights

January 18, 2023
News Media Contact
NTIA, Office of Public Affairs

WASHINGTON – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today announced a Request for Comment on how companies’ data practices may impose outsized harm on marginalized or underserved communities.

The ways in which firms collect, share, and use data can exacerbate existing structural inequities. As NTIA notes in its Privacy, Equity, and Civil Rights Request for Comment:

Online job ads may be targeted based on real or perceived demographic characteristics such as age, sex, or race – reaching certain groups while ignoring others.

Apps that collect and sell location data could reveal details about the user’s movements that make them vulnerable to discrimination – such as an LGBTQ+-specific dating app or a Muslim prayer app.

The financial cost and time spent to secure one’s information after a data breach or identity theft incident can be more burdensome to correct and ultimately costly for low-income communities.

“Everyone in America deserves strong privacy protections,” said Alan Davidson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator. “This is especially important for marginalized communities, where the consequences of privacy invasions can be more starkly felt. Data collection and sharing creates the risk of new digital discrimination replicating previous forms of profiling, redlining and exclusion. We are concerned about how these practices can hinder economic and social opportunities, from housing and jobs to health and safety.”

NTIA is seeking comments as it prepares a report analyzing whether and how commercial data practices can negatively affect marginalized or underserved communities, as well as how existing civil rights and privacy laws can be used to address privacy harms. This report will point to how current resources can be better deployed – and provide a guide for new privacy proposals.

NTIA is the President’s principal advisor on tech and telecom policy issues. The agency’s initiative supports the Biden Administration’s Principles for Enhancing Competition and Tech Platform Accountability. The principles, as emphasized in the President’s recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, call for “robust federal protections for Americans’ privacy” and an end to “discriminatory algorithmic decision-making.”

The request for comment builds on the work conducted by NTIA during three listening sessions. Comments will be due 45 days from publication in the Federal Register.


About the National Telecommunications and Information Administration   

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is the Executive Branch agency that advises the President on telecommunications and information policy issues. NTIA’s programs and policymaking focus largely on expanding broadband Internet access and adoption in America, expanding the use of spectrum by all users, advancing public safety communications, and ensuring that the Internet remains an engine for innovation and economic growth.