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FTC report provides recommendations to businesses on growing use of big data

On Jan. 6, 2016, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a report titled “Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion? Understanding the Issues,” which describes how big data use can run afoul of federal laws and regulations. 

The 50-page report outlines a number of questions for businesses to consider to ensure that their use of big data analytics, while producing many benefits for consumers, avoids outcomes that may be exclusionary or discriminatory.

The report defines “big data” as “a confluence of factors, including the nearly ubiquitous collections of consumer data from a variety of sources, the plummeting cost of data storage, and powerful new capabilities to analyze data to draw connections and make inferences and predictions.”

In addition to highlighting the potential benefits of big data, the report looks at possible risks that could result from biases or inaccuracies about certain groups, including more individuals being mistakenly denied opportunities based on the actions of others, exposing sensitive information, creating or reinforcing existing disparities, assisting in the targeting of vulnerable consumers for fraud, creating higher prices for goods and services in lower-income communities and weakening the effectiveness of consumer choice.

The report outlines some of the various laws that apply to the use of big data, especially in regards to possible issues of discrimination or exclusion, including the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Federal Trade Commission Act and equal opportunity laws. It also provides a range of questions for businesses to consider when they examine whether their big data programs comply with these laws.

To read the full FTC report, click here.

Source: Federal Trade Commission, 1/6/2016

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