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Executive Branch Advocacy

Enforcing Civil Rights at the Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has broad authority to regulate and prohibit unfair and deceptive trade practices. It is the lead federal agency responsible for safeguarding everyone’s privacy. Using personal data to engage in discrimination, whether intentionally or by disparate impact, is a quintessential unfair trade practice.

On August 4, 2021, the Digital Justice Initiative led a coalition of 25 organizations calling for the FTC to initiate a rulemaking on unfair and deceptive commercial data practices, create an Office of Civil Rights, and commit greater resources to enforcement. The letter lays out in detail many examples of harmful data practices and proposals the FTC could implement in regulations.

  • Read the letter here. (26) Read our press release here.
  • On March 29, 2021, the Digital Justice Initiative joined a letter to the FTC calling for nominees that will uphold civil rights principles, support greater accountability and transparency in the tech industry, and will combat digital redlining.

  • Read the letter here.

Using Federal Regulatory Power to Prohibit Discriminatory Data Practices

On July 13 2021, the Lawyers’ Committee joined allied organizations to urge President Biden to prioritize combatting algorithmic discrimination. We asked the White House to direct federal agencies to use all available legal authorities to regulate discriminatory data practices, and provided three in-depth legal memos specifically addressing discrimiantion in housing, employment, and credit.

  • Read the letter to the White House here.
  • Read the housing legal memo here.
  • Read the employment legal memo here.
  • Read the financial services legal memo here.
  • Read our press release here.

Reforming Section 230: Don’t Export It Internationally

On May 27, 2021, 15 national organizations sent a letter asking President Biden to put an end to the practice of incorporating big tech liability shields akin to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act into international trade agreements. Section 230 has recently been used by tech platforms to evade accountability. Cementing it into trade agreements with little public oversight limits the ability of Congress and advocates to address online civil rights, privacy concerns, cybercrime, and more.

  • Read the letter here.

Principles of the Civil Rights, Privacy, & Technology Roundtable

The Lawyers’ Committee is a member and signatory to the Principles of the Civil Rights, Privacy, and Technology Roundtable. The principles call for ending high-tech profiling, ensuring justice in automated decisions, preserving constitutional principles, ensuring that technology serves people historically subject to discrimination, defining responsible use of personal information and enhancing individual rights, and making systems transparent and accountable.

  • Read the principles and learn more about the Table here.