The New York Times: A license to discriminate

The New York Times, June 6, 2018: A license to discriminate

Facebook is embroiled in another vast privacy scandal. The company revealed on Tuesday that it had allowed Huawei and three other Chinese companies, in addition to Apple, Samsung and dozens of other device makers, access to data on Facebook users, their friends and their friends’ friends. These arrangements extended to data on religion, work and education history, and political preferences. Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of 87 million Facebook users; this latest scandal may affect many times that number of users.

Sweeping privacy violations have the strange effect of revealing that the tracking of consumers by marketers affects everyone while hiding how that tracking hurts some people far more than others. People who value their privacy come from all demographic groups, but the impact of consumer tracking varies greatly by race, class and power. When you’re the “right” race, gender and sexual orientation, when you’ve got the right schools and jobs on your profile, marketers use tracking to flatter and include you. When you’re not, tracking is more likely to be used to exclude or exploit you. This disparate impact is a civil rights issue, and it should be treated like one by Congress.

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