Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Data and Civil Rights

In 12 years of blogging, I've never done this before.

I urge you to go to the website Data and Civil Rights, download all of the papers, and read every single one. Then think about your life, your work and your next steps. Whatever area of civil society you focus on - education, health, criminal justice, employment, finance, health or housing - there are materials there for you. (What happened to the environment?)

I was not involved in the conference that the website documents. I wish I had been. This work matters to all us. All of us need to think about these issues, engage in the conversations and research, and take what is being learned and apply it to our efforts. Here's what the conference organizers had to say in preparing their follow up:
"This event built on the civil rights community’s efforts in producing the Civil Rights Principles for the Era of Big Data and the lessons learned by the White House in their 2014 review of big data. The White House’s report – “Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values – highlighted the need to better understand the potential for discrimination, inequality, and other civil rights issues. While technology-minded communities have considered the potential and challenges presented by “big data,” these techniques and data practices affect more than the technology sector. Many issues central to the civil rights community – including criminal justice, education, employment, finance, health, and housing – are being affected by “big data” dynamics. In order to better understand what is at stake for our civil rights, we sparked a conversation that crossed sectors to identify a path forward. We wanted to better understand technology’s potential and develop a grounded sense of where there are concerns and what we can do to prevent problems.
This site offers documentation of the event, including written primers that attendees used during the event to explore key issues as well as write-ups of the discussions themselves.
Please send any feedback or ideas to nextsteps at"
Several years ago I wrote to the nonprofit and foundation community that "how we use our digital data will define us." The conversations and papers from this website put detail, pain, and possibility to that statement. 

I hope to incorporate much of this work into the 2015 plans and products for the Digital Civil Society Lab. I am so glad this work is being done.

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