MediaJustice

Five National Groups Document Largely Unregulated Tech Harms Disproportionately Impacting Black, Brown, and Immigrant Communities, Requiring New Consumer Protection Rules

Washington, D.C.Today, MediaJustice released a series of comments submitted to the Federal Trade Commission on behalf of racial justice advocates including bold recommendations for specific actions in response to the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) on commercial surveillance and data security practices released in August. 

MediaJustice, the Surveillance, Tech, and Immigration Policing Project at the Immigrant Defense Project, Mijente, Just Futures Law, and the Center on Race and Digital Justice are asking the FTC to exercise its rulemaking authority to hold private corporations accountable with new rules to protect Black, brown, and immigrant communities from abusive commercial data, electronic monitoring, and surveillance practices.

The comments submitted include concrete proposals to implement substantive limits on the collection, sharing, and storing of personal data by private companies and create transparency and oversight requirements. The resulting FTC decision, expected to be made in the months ahead, will determine whether a rulemaking process will be initiated to protect our privacy, data, and lives from commercial data practices that fuel serious civil rights violations. 

Read the submitted FTC comments from racial justice groups here

“This Federal Trade Commission rulemaking process could be hugely consequential in finally reining in the tech abuses by police departments, private corporations, and federal government agencies,” said Rumsha Sajid, national field organizer on policing and surveillance at MediaJustice. “In the past two decades, without comprehensive government action to protect the public, the now massive industry profiting from the extraction of our personal information is operating largely with impunity. It’s high time to create rules that assert our rights and power in an environment where they are bought and sold, largely without our informed knowledge or consent, compounding the exploitation of Black and brown communities.” 

Immigration and racial justice groups including the Surveillance, Tech, and Immigration Policing Project at the Immigrant Defense Project, Just Futures Law, Mijente, MediaJustice, and Center on Race and Digital Justice, led the comment based on their years of research and work with impacted communities. Their collective comment urges the FTC to curb invasive and deceptive commercial practices in the digital policing age: 

“It is imperative that the FTC act within their existing authority to finally extend consumer protections to limit the bad data practices by private actors facilitating the warrantless government collection and retention of our confidential information, said Jacinta González, senior campaign organizer with Mijente and the #NoTechforICE Campaign. “For far too long, ICE, police, and others have violated constitutional provisions and privacy laws without repercussions because they can hide behind data brokers and analytics companies. The FTC must move to guard our civil liberties–with accountability, regulatory oversight, and legal consequence–from the surveillance dragnet enabled by invasive and biased technology tools.”

The MediaJustice Network, over 70 organizations representing marginalized communities, also submitted a comment for needed FTC rules to mitigate the harm of commercial surveillance in policing, using Amazon Ring and Automated License Plate Readers, and education, with computer software that track youth. 

“The impact of commercial surveillance and algorithmic decision-making may seem abstract, but for Black people and other folks of color, it has a real impact on our lives. Algorithms can determine if we get approved to rent an apartment or get access to a loan. Commercial surveillance impacts if we feel safe protesting, or if our loved ones are detained by ICE or targeted by police,” said Akina Younge, Director of Movement Collaborations at the Center on Race and Digital Justice. “Algorithms and surveillance reflect the system of racial capitalism our country is built on. Through deception and discrimination, they are used to reinforce false categories of those who deserve money, freedom, and self-determination, and those who should be watched, criminalized, and controlled. The FTC must repair past harms and prevent future harms from algorithmic decision making and surveillance.” 

Electronic Monitoring, a largely unregulated technology frequently used by the criminal, legal, and immigration systems leading to a series of unethical practices by major providers in the industry, was the subject of a detailed comment authored by MediaJustice–asking the FTC to step in with practical and needed regulation: 

“As the MediaJustice comments maintain, the FTC needs to assert its power over punitive, racialized technologies like electronic monitoring,” said James Kilgore, fellow with MediaJustice. “While an outright ban on ankle shackles would be the best possible option, the FTC must act to reduce the harms done by these devices in the absence of the political will to abolish electronic monitoring altogether. This means imposing strict regulations for EM companies and their government contractors. Such regulations should limit the capacity of monitors to capture or share data, eliminate user fees, and make contracts and conditions of EM easily accessible to the public. The time to monitor the monitors on the pathway to their elimination is now.”

Following the closure of this comment period today, the FTC will notify Congress if they intend to proceed with the proposed rulemaking. In the event that the rulemaking proceeds, the FTC will be required to hold another public comment period and a series of informal hearings before the development, publication, and enforcement of the final rule. 

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MediaJustice is dedicated to building a grassroots movement for a more just and participatory media—fighting for racial, economic, and gender justice in a digital age. MediaJustice boldly advances communication rights, access, and power for communities harmed by persistent dehumanization, discrimination and disadvantage. Home of the #MediaJusticeNetwork, comprised of more than 70 grassroots partners, we envision a future where everyone is connected, represented, and free.

Contact: Christina DiPasquale, [email protected], 202.716.1953

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