The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) issued a call for comment on Jan. 18 seeking public input on ‘how companies’ data practices may impose outsized harm on marginalized or underserved communities.”

The comment window is open for 45 days, the agency said.

One of the primary concerns cited by NTIA in its Privacy, Equity, and Civil Rights Request for Comment is in the area of online employment ads that it said “may be targeted based on real or perceived demographic characteristics such as age, sex, or race – reaching certain groups while ignoring others.”

Another concern stated by the agency is “apps that collect and sell location data could reveal details about the user’s movements that make them vulnerable to discrimination – such as an LGBTQ+-specific dating app or a Muslim prayer app.” And the agency cited burdensome costs for lower-income people to secure their information following data breaches and identity thefts.

“Everyone in America deserves strong privacy protections,” declared NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson. “This is especially important for marginalized communities, where the consequences of privacy invasions can be more starkly felt,” he said.

“Data collection and sharing creates the risk of new digital discrimination replicating previous forms of profiling, redlining and exclusion,” he said. “We are concerned about how these practices can hinder economic and social opportunities, from housing and jobs to health and safety.”

NTIA said public comments on those issues will help inform an agency report “analyzing whether and how commercial data practices can negatively affect marginalized or underserved communities, as well as how existing civil rights and privacy laws can be used to address privacy harms.”

That report, the agency said, “will point to how current resources can be better deployed – and provide a guide for new privacy proposals.”

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Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.