White House “big data” study to reveal potential for discrimination

Next week, White House counselor John Podesta is set to present the results of a 90-day “big data” study, commissioned by President Barack Obama in January as part of a wave of NSA reform announcements. According to the Associated Press, Podesta’s study will hinge largely on the discriminatory potential of the mountains of data accumulated by public and private firms alike.

The study’s results could mean changes to federal anti-discrimination laws, particularly in the case of financial and employment policies.

The AP report used private data clustering as an example of potential abuse, describing customers lumped into an “Ethnic Second-City Struggler” category. Loan applicants could be lumped into that category based on geographic and social-media information, flagging them for higher-interest loans than they’d be offered as anonymous, off-the-street customers.

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