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After Buffalo, Media and Tech Can’t Look Away Any Longer

This tragedy should be a catalyst to a fundamental reckoning.
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WASHINGTON — Access Now, Free Press, and UltraViolet delivered thousands of petition signatures to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) calling on the agency to initiate a privacy and civil rights rulemaking. With Alvaro Bedoya’s confirmation as FTC commissioner on Wednesday, the agency has the votes to create new data protection rules. 

"[Major tech] companies use our information to track, confuse, trick and exploit individuals for profit — while undermining our civil rights and sabotaging our access to economic opportunities," the petition reads. "Reining in these data abuses falls squarely within the FTC’s authority and we cannot wait for action in Congress to disrupt social-media companies’ discriminatory practices."

How data is collected, processed, and shared has a direct impact on economic opportunities and falls squarely within the FTC’s authority. Companies use personal data to enable and even perpetuate discriminatory practices against people of color, women, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, religious minorities, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups. 

This petition delivery follows calls from Senators and civil-society organizations urging FTC Chair Lina Khan to initiate a privacy and civil rights rulemaking to consider enforcing data minimization safeguards to protect privacy rights. 

“Bedoya has deep knowledge of the ways platforms profit from the misuse of the personal data of people in the United States," said Carmen Scurato, Associate Legal Director and Senior Counsel at Free Press. “Now, with his confirmation, the FTC can move forward to protect all of us. Through a rulemaking process, the agency can build a record of the harms and put in place guardrails against discriminatory and abusive data practices that disproportionately impact people of color. We’ve read enough stories about companies like Facebook that weaponize our data and put profits before our civil rights. Now the FTC must act.”

“Bedoya’s confirmation is a win for human rights,” said Willmary Escoto, U.S. Policy Analyst at Access Now. “He supports robust data minimization principles and understands how big data impacts vulnerable communities. For years we have called on Congress to protect our data, to no avail, and now the FTC can finally move forward with a  rulemaking that defends the rights of marginalized people in the U.S. and around the world.”

“Bedoya’s confirmation will usher in a more equitable era for the FTC and greatly impact the way platforms interact with personal data in the U.S.,” said Bridget Todd, Communications Director at UltraViolet, a national gender and survivor justice organization. “With a fully functioning commission, the FTC will be able to act in the best interests of the people and prevent abuse and misuse of personal data by Big Tech. Big Tech is undermining our civil rights and sabotaging our access to economic opportunities. The current lack of rulemaking around civil rights and personal data is impacting us all, leading to racism, misogyny, sexism, and xenophobia triggered by algorithmic bias. By enacting rulemaking around privacy and civil rights, the FTC can set up protections for users and ensure the integrity of onlines spaces for all.”

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