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White House Report: The Role of Big Data In Improving Lives of Americans
The White House has just issued a report looking at four of the top areas where big data has the potential to greatly improve the lives and safety of Americans. But there are just as many pitfalls as promises to be aware of.
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group of people figures on laptop, 3d render
Big Data’s Opportunities & Challenges for All Americans
The Obama Administration’s Big Data Working Group has just issued its comprehensive report looking at the opportunities and challenges around big data and four key areas of society:•Personal credit•Employment•Higher education•Law enforcement. Entitled Big Data: A Report on Algorithmic Systems, Opportunity, and Civil Rights, the report notes that “big data and associated technologies have enormous potential for positive impact in the United States.” But big data also has the potential to create unintended discriminatory consequences if not used correctly. Here we look at the Problem the government is trying to solve; the Opportunity that big data presents; and the Challenge that will need to be overcome in order for a big data solution to work.
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Credit Report and Magnifying Glass
Big Data and Access to Credit
The Problem: Many Americans lack access to affordable credit due to thin or non-existent credit files.While traditional credit scores serve many Americans well, according to a study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), as many as 11 percent of consumers are “credit invisible”—they simply do not have enough up-to-date credit repayment history for the algorithm to produce a credit score.
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Big Data and Access to Credit
The Big Data Opportunity: Use of big data in lending can increase access to credit for the financially underserved. One possible approach to this problem is to use data analytics drawing on multiple sources of information to create more opportunity for consumers to gain access to better credit. New tools designed with big data have potential to create alternative scoring mechanisms and new opportunities for access to credit for the tens of millions of Americans who do not have enough information in their credit files to receive a traditional credit score or who have an undeservedly low score.
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Render illustration of Know your Rights title on Legal Documents
Big Data and Access to Credit
The Big Data Challenge: Expanding access to affordable credit while preserving consumer rights that protect against discrimination in credit eligibility decisions.The right to be informed about and to dispute the accuracy of the underlying data used to create a credit score is particularly important because credit bureaus have significant data accuracy issues, which are likely to be exacerbated by the use of new, fast-changing data sources.
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The drudges of filling in an application for employment.
Big Data and Employment
The Problem: Traditional hiring practices may unnecessarily filter out applicants whose skills match the job opening.Even as recruiting and hiring managers look to make greater use of algorithmic systems and automation, the inclination remains for individuals to hire someone similar to themselves, an unconscious phenomenon often referred to as “like me” bias, which can impede diversity.44 Algorithmic systems can be designed to help prevent this bias and increase diversity in the hiring process.
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Big Data and Employment
The Big Data Opportunity: Big data can be used to uncover or possibly reduce employment discrimination.Companies can use data-driven approaches to find potential employees who otherwise might have been overlooked based on traditional educational or workplace-experience requirements. Data-analytics systems allow companies to objectively consider experiences and skill sets that have a proven correlation with success.
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Equality concept word cloud background
Big Data and Employment
The Big Data Challenge: Promoting fairness, ethics, and mechanisms for mitigating discrimination in employment opportunity.Data-analytics companies are creating new kinds of “candidate scores” by using diverse and novel sources of information on job candidates. These sources, and the algorithms used to develop them, sometimes use factors that could closely align with race or other protected characteristics, or may be unreliable in predicting success of an individual at a job.
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Students Holding Question Markes, What Kind of Future Could Have?
Big Data and Higher Education
The Problem: Students often face challenges accessing higher education, finding information to help choose the right college, and staying enrolled.Differences in the price of attendance across institutions affect financial returns, and may lead to differences in the amount that students have to borrow, which may also affect their career decisions and personal lives in meaningful ways. Despite the importance of this decision, there is a surprising lack of clear, easy to use, and accessible information available to guide the students making these choices.The opportunities to use big data in higher education can either produce or prevent discrimination—the same technology that can help identify and serve students who are more likely to be in need of extra help can also be used to deny admissions or other opportunities based on the very same characteristics.
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Celebration Education Graduation Student Success Learning Concept
Big Data and Higher Education
The Big Data Opportunity: Using big data can increase educational opportunities for the students who most need them.To address the lack of information about college quality and costs, the Obama Administration has created a new College Scorecard to provide reliable information about college performance.56 The College Scorecard is a large step toward helping students and their families evaluate college choices. Never-before-released national data about post-college outcomes—including the most comparable and reliable data on the earnings of colleges’ alumni and new data on student debt—and student-loan repayment provides students, families, and their advisers with a more accurate picture of college cost and value.
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Applications and Grants
Big Data and Higher Education
The Big Data Challenge: Administrators must be careful to address the possibility of discrimination in higher education admissions decisions.In making admissions decisions, institutions of higher education may use big data techniques to try to predict the likelihood that an applicant will graduate before they ever set foot on campus.59 using these types of data practices, some students could face barriers to admission because they are statistically less likely to graduate. Institutions could also deny students from low-income families, or other students who face unique challenges in graduating, the financial support that they deserve or need to afford college.
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A police car rushes to the emergency call with lights turned on in the city street
Big Data and Criminal Justice
The Problem: In a rapidly evolving world, law enforcement officials are looking for smart ways to use new technologies to increase community safety and trust.Local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies are increasingly drawing on data analytics and algorithmic systems to further their mission of protecting America. Using information gathered from the field and through the use of new technologies, law enforcement officials are analyzing situations in order to determine the appropriate response.
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Big Data and Criminal Justice
The Big Data Opportunity: Data and algorithms can potentially help law enforcement become more transparent, effective, and efficient.New technologies are replacing manual techniques, and many police departments now use sophisticated computer modeling systems to refine their understanding of crime hot spots, linking offense data to patterns in temperature, time of day, proximity to other structures and facilities, and other variables. Some of the newest analytical modeling techniques, often called “predictive policing,” might provide greater precision in predicting locations and times at which criminal activity is likely to occur. An analytical method known as “near-repeat modeling” attempts to predict crimes based on this insight.
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a friendly and smiling Hispanic female officer with her patrol car.
Big Data and Criminal Justice
The Big Data Challenge: The law enforcement community can use new technologies to enhance trust and public safety in the community, especially through measures that promote transparency and accountability and mitigate risks of disparities in treatment and outcomes based on individual characteristics.Those leading efforts to use data analytics to create and implement predictive tools must work hard to ensure that such algorithms are not dependent on factors that disproportionately single out particular communities based on characteristics such as race, religion, income level, education, or other data inputs that may serve as proxies for characteristics with little or no bearing on an individual’s likelihood of association with criminal activity.
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Looking to the Future
The use of big data can create great value for the American people, but as these technologies expand in reach throughout society, we must uphold our fundamental values so these systems are neither destructive nor opportunity limiting. Moving forward, it is essential that the public and private sectors continue to have collaborative conversations about how to achieve the most out of big data technologies while deliberately applying these tools to avoid—and when appropriate, address—discrimination.