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Event Description

The Federal Trade Commission hosted a public workshop entitled “Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion?” in Washington on September 15, 2014, to further explore the use of “big data” and its impact on American consumers, including low income and underserved consumers.

“A growing number of companies are increasingly using big data analytics techniques to categorize consumers and make predictions about their behavior,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “As part of the FTC’s ongoing work to shed light on the full scope of big data practices, our workshop will examine the potentially positive and negative effects of big data on low income and underserved populations.”

The proliferation of smartphones, social networks, cloud computing, and more powerful predictive analytic techniques have enabled the collection, analysis, use, and storage of data in a way that was not possible just a few years ago. Tremendous benefits flow from the insights of big data, such as advances in medicine, education, and transportation, improved product offerings, more efficient manufacturing processes, and more effectively tailored advertisements. At the same time, concerns have been raised about whether big data may be used to categorize consumers in ways that may affect them unfairly, or even unlawfully.

Companies such as financial institutions, online and brick and mortar retailers, lead generators, and service providers may use big data in the following ways:

  • To reward loyal customers with better customer service or shorter wait times.
  • To offer different prices or discounts to different consumers. For example, a financial institution may offer a consumer a discounted mortgage rate if that consumer has a checking, savings, credit card, and retirement account with a competitor.
  • To tailor advertising for financial products. For example, high-income consumers may receive offers for “gold level” credit cards and low-income consumers may receive offers for subprime credit cards.
  • To assess credit risks of particular populations. For example, some commentators have highlighted the use of unregulated “aggregate scoring models” that assess credit risks, not based on the credit characteristics of individual consumers, but on the aggregate credit characteristics of groups of consumers who shop at certain stores.

Such uses of big data are expected to create efficiencies, lower costs, and improve the ability of certain populations to find and access credit and other services. At the same time, these practices may have an unfair impact on other populations, limiting their access to higher quality products, services, or content.

The workshop addressed the following issues:

  • How are organizations using big data to categorize consumers?
  • What benefits do consumers gain from these practices? Do these practices raise consumer protection concerns?
  • What benefits do organizations gain from these practices? What are the social and economic impacts, both positive and negative, from the use of big data to categorize consumers?
  • How do existing laws apply to such practices? Are there gaps in the legal framework?
  • Are companies appropriately assessing the impact of big data practices on low income and underserved populations? Should additional measures be considered?


  • Tiffany George, 202-326-3040


  • 8:00 am


    9:00 am

    Tiffany George
    Senior Attorney, Division of Privacy & Identity Protection, FTC

    Opening Remarks
    Edith Ramirez
    Chairwoman, Federal Trade Commission

    9:15 am

    Presentation: Framing the Conversation
    Solon Barocas, Ph.D.
    Postdoctoral Research Associate
    Princeton University Center for Information Technology Policy
    9:30 am

    Panel 1: Assessing the Current Environment

    This panel will examine the current uses of big data in a variety of contexts and how these uses impact consumers.


    • Katherine Armstrong, Senior Attorney
      Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, FTC


    • Kristin Amerling
      Chief Investigative Counsel and Director of Oversight
      U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
    • danah boyd
      Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research
      Research Assistant Professor, New York University
    • Mallory Duncan
      Senior Vice President and General Counsel
      National Retail Federation 
    • Gene Gsell
      Senior Vice President, U.S. Retail & CPG
    • David Robinson
      Robinson + Yu
    • Joseph Turow
      Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania

    10:45 am

    11:00 am

    Panel 2: What’s on the Horizon with Big Data?

    This panel will explore potential uses of big data as well as the potential benefits and harms for particular populations of consumers.


    • Tiffany George, Senior Attorney
      Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, FTC


    • Alessandro Acquisti
      Associate Professor of Information Systems and Public Policy
      Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University and
      Co-director of the CMU Center for Behavioral Decision Research
    • Pamela Dixon
      Founder and Executive Director
      World Privacy Forum
    • Cynthia Dwork
      Distinguished Scientist
      Microsoft Research
    • Mark MacCarthy
      Vice President for Public Policy
      Software Information Industry Association
    • Stuart Pratt
      President and CEO, Consumer Data Industry Association
    • Dr. Nicol Turner-Lee
      Vice President and Chief Research & Policy Officer
      Minority Media and Telecommunications Council

    12:15 pm


    1:20 pm


    Julie Brill
    Federal Trade Commission

    1:30 pm

    Presentation: Digging into the Data

    Latanya Sweeney
    Chief Technologist
    Federal Trade Commission

    Jinyan Zang
    Research Fellow in Technology and Data Governance
    Federal Trade Commission

    1:45 pm

    Panel 3: Surveying the Legal Landscape

    This panel will review various antidiscrimination and consumer protection laws and discuss how they may apply to the use of big data, and whether there may be gaps in the law.


    • Katherine Worthman, Senior Attorney
      Division of Financial Practices, FTC

    • Patrick Eagan-Van Meter, Program Specialist
      Division of Financial Practices, FTC


    • Leonard Chanin
      Morrison Foerster
    • Carol Miaskoff
      Assistant Legal Counsel, Office of Legal Counsel
      Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
    • Montserrat Miller
      Arnall Golden Gregory LLP
    • C. Lee Peeler
      President and CEO of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council and
      Executive Vice President, National Advertising Self-Regulation,
      Council of Better Business Bureaus
    • Peter Swire
      Professor of Law and Ethics
      Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology

    3:00 pm

    3:15 pm

    Panel 4: Considerations on the Path Forward

    This panel will explore best practices for the use of big data to protect consumers.


    • Christopher Olsen, Assistant Director
      Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, FTC


    • Christopher Calabrese
      Legislative Counsel
      American Civil Liberties Union
    • Daniel Castro
      Senior Analyst
      Information Technology and Innovation Foundation
    • Jeanette Fitzgerald
      General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer
    • Jeremy Gillula
      Staff Technologist
      Electronic Frontier Foundation
    • Michael Spadea
      Promontory Financial Group
    • Christopher Wolf
      Senior Partner, Hogan Lovells
      Founder and Chair, Future of Privacy Forum
      Chair, National Civil Rights Committee, Anti-Defamation League

    4:30 pm

    Closing Remarks

    Jessica Rich
    Director, Bureau of Consumer Protection
    Federal Trade Commission


  • Presentation: Framing the Conversation

    Solon Barocas is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University. He completed his doctorate in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and is now a Research Fellow at the Information Law Institute at the School of Law. His research focuses on emerging applications of machine learning and the ethical and epistemological issues that they raise. His most recent work explores the specific processes that can render data mining discriminatory, with a particular focus on employment decisions. This work figures into a larger and ongoing collaborative research project on fairness in algorithmic decision-making. He currently serves on the Council for Big Data, Ethics, and Society, housed at the Data & Society Research Institute.

    Panel 1: Assessing the Current Environment

    Kristin Amerling is chief investigative counsel and director of oversight for the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. She was previously president and executive director of the non-profit organization Taxpayers Against Fraud, and served on the staff of Rep. Henry Waxman in positions including chief counsel for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and chief counsel for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Amerling also has worked in private practice as an associate at Steptoe and Johnson, LLP, and served as State of Maine press secretary for former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.
    danah boyd is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. She is the founder and president of the think/do tank, Data & Society Research Institute. Her research examines the intersection of technology and society and is currently focusing on research questions related to big data, privacy and publicity, and teen culture. Her recent book - It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens - has received widespread praise from scholars, parents, and journalists.

    Mallory Duncan has served as senior vice president and general counsel for the National Retail Federation for more than fifteen years. He is responsible for coordinating strategic legislative and regulatory initiatives involving customer data privacy, financial services and consumer protection.

    Gene Gsell is Senior Vice President, U.S. Retail & CPG of SAS, the largest independent vendor in the business intelligence market, where he leads the comprehensive business and strategic operations of the U.S. Retail & CPG business unit within the Americas. He has 30 years of sales and marketing experience at several retail and wholesale companies including Danskin, The Timberland Company, Hanes Hosiery, and Federated Department Stores. Gene also has expertise in e-commerce strategy and channel development.

    David Robinson is a Principal at Robinson + Yu, which provides Internet expertise for policymakers and is currently working with major civil rights organizations to research the civil rights implications of big data, in areas ranging from consumer finance to marketing to employment. Robinson served as the founding Associate Director of Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy, a joint venture combining computer science and public policy. Robinson’s published scholarship and popular writing analyzes policy issues that raise both legal and technological questions, and he has written and reported for TIME and for the Wall Street Journal.

    Joseph Turow is the Robert Lewis Shayon Professor of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. He has authored nine books, edited five books, and written more than 150 articles on mass media industries. His most recent titles are Media Today: Mass Communication in a Converging World (Routledge, 2014) and The Daily You: How the New Advertising Industry is Defining Your Identity and Your Worth (Yale University Press, 2012). Turow’s continuing national surveys of the American public on issues relating to marketing, new media, and society have received a great deal of attention in the popular press as well as in the research community.

    Panel 2: What’s on the Horizon with Big Data?

    Alessandro Acquisti is a Professor of Information Technology and Public Policy at the Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University, and the co-director of the CMU Center for Behavioral Decision Research. Acquisti’s work investigates the economics and behavioral economics of privacy and information security. Acquisti has been the recipient of the PET Award for Outstanding Research in Privacy Enhancing Technologies, the IBM Best Academic Privacy Faculty Award, the Heinz College School of Information’s Teaching Excellence Award, and multiple Best Paper awards.

    Pamela Dixon is the founder and executive director of the World Privacy Forum. Her privacy research has been showcased in Congress, at the FTC, in the media, and has formed the basis for state and U.S. national legislation, particularly in the areas of health privacy. Dixon has written studies on consumer privacy, data brokers, online privacy, financial privacy, health privacy, and self-regulation. Most recently, Dixon was the lead co-author of The Scoring of America, a deeply researched report on how consumer data and analytics are used in the marketplace. Dixon’s most recent book, co-authored with Bob Gellman, Online Privacy, was published by ABC-CLIO books.

    Cynthia Dwork is a Distinguished Scientist at Microsoft Research and is renowned for placing privacy-preserving data analysis on a mathematically rigorous foundation. A cornerstone of this work is differential privacy, a strong privacy guarantee frequently permitting highly accurate data analysis. In recent years, she has expanded her efforts in formalizing social concepts to the problem of achieving fairness in classification systems. Dr. Dwork has also made seminal contributions in cryptography and distributed computing, and is a recipient of the Edsger W. Dijkstra Prize, recognizing some of her earliest work establishing the pillars on which every fault-tolerant system has been built for decades. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

    Mark MacCarthy is the vice president for Public Policy of the Software & Information Industry Association where he directs SIIA’s public policy initiatives in the areas of intellectual property enforcement, information privacy, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and the promotion of educational technology. McCarthy is also an adjunct faculty member at Georgetown University where he teaches courses in information privacy and tech policy in the Communication, Culture, and Technology Program.

    Stuart Pratt is the President and CEO of the Consumer Data Industry Association, which includes businesses that provide companies with the data and analytical tools necessary to manage risk. Pratt has advised U.S. presidential and gubernatorial task forces on the importance of the free flow of information to the U.S. economy and testifies regularly before Congress.

    Nicol Turner-Lee is Vice President and Chief Research and Policy Officer for the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, a 28-year old minority media advocacy organization, where she is responsible for designing and implementing its research and policy agenda. Previously, at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Dr. Turner-Lee created the first “National Minority Broadband Adoption Study” which was cited in the Federal Communications Commission’s congressionally mandated National Broadband Plan as well as a subsequent report detailing the information needs of communities. In 2011, Dr. Turner-Lee was appointed to the Federal Advisory Committee on Diversity in the Digital Age by former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

    Presentation: Digging into the Data    

    Latanya Sweeney is a professor of government and technology at Harvard University and the founder and director of Harvard’s data privacy lab. She has testified before Congress and the European Commission and participated in numerous federal regulatory and advisory committees. She is a fellow of the American College of Medical Informatics. Sweeney holds a Ph.D. in computer science, master’s degrees in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Harvard. Dr. Sweeney’s research has focused on the de-identification of data, developing privacy technologies, and the protection of health information.

    Jinyan Zang was a Research Fellow in Technology and Data Governance at the FTC in 2014. He is currently a management consultant at Oliver Wyman working in technology, media, healthcare, and aerospace industries. He graduated cum laude from Harvard University in 2013, where he studied economics and researched online advertising, gamification, and social networks.

    Panel 3: Surveying the Legal Landscape

    Leonard Chanin is a partner with the law firm of Morrison & Foerster. Prior to joining the law firm, Chanin held a number of government positions both with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Reserve Board. At the CFPB, Chanin headed the agency’s rulemaking team and was responsible for implementing several consumer financial protection laws, including the Truth in Lending Act, Truth in Savings Act, Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and Electronic Fund Transfer Act. At the Federal Reserve Board, he was Deputy Director in the Division of Consumer and Community Affairs Division.

    Carol Miaskoff is Assistant Legal Counsel in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Office of Legal Counsel, where she supervises development of policy and regulations implementing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Equal Pay Act. During her career at the EEOC, Ms. Miaskoff has participated in the EEOC’s response to employment discrimination following the September 11th attacks, rulemakings under the ADEA and the Rehabilitation Act, issues related to online job applicants, and development of guidance on criminal record exclusions.

    Montserrat Miller is a partner in the Privacy and Consumer Regulatory; Immigration; and Government Affairs Practice Groups at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP where she assists clients with privacy and data protection-related matters, including counseling and defending companies regarding their Fair Credit Reporting Act compliance. Her practice includes special emphasis on the use of criminal and credit history information and compliance with the FCRA, Title VII, and state laws that impact the use of background checks for employment screening and tenancy purposes.

    C. Lee Peeler is President and CEO of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council and Executive Vice President, National Advertising Self-Regulation, Council of Better Business Bureaus. Peeler is responsible for leading the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. Prior to joining the CBBB, Peeler held a number of management positions during his 33 year tenure at the Federal Trade Commission including as Deputy Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection and Associate Director of the Division of Advertising Practices. He has testified and spoken widely on consumer protection issues including truth in advertising, consumer credit, privacy, and data security.

    Peter Swire is the Huang Professor of Law and Ethics in the Scheller College of Business at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Swire is a Senior Fellow at the Future of Privacy Forum and the Center for American Progress, and Policy Fellow at the Center for Democracy and Technology. Under President Clinton, Swire served as the Administration’s Chief Counselor for Privacy in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget where he coordinated Administration policy on the use of personal information in the public and private sectors. Swire has served on privacy and security advisory boards for companies including Google, IBM, Intel, and Microsoft.

    Panel 4: Considerations on the Path Forward

    Christopher Calabrese is the legislative counsel for privacy-related issues in the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative Office where his portfolio includes internet privacy and new surveillance technologies. He has testified before Congress and appeared in many media outlets, including CBS Evening News, New York Times, Washington Post, and Associated Press.

    Daniel Castro is a senior analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and the Director of the Center for Data Innovation. Castro writes and speaks on issues related to information technology and internet policy, including privacy, security, intellectual property, and internet governance, e-government, and accessibility for people with disabilities. His work has been quoted and cited in numerous media outlets, including Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, NPR, USA Today, and BusinessWeek.

    Jeanette Fitzgerald is General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer for Epsilon where she leads the government affairs, legislative, and regulatory initiatives related to data protection and privacy. She has spoken before domestic and international industry associates about the implications of data privacy for businesses and consumers, and has testified before U.S. Congressional committees.

    Jeremy Gillula is a staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, where he focuses on privacy and civil liberties issues arising from new technology, including machine learning algorithms, ubiquitous sensing systems, and autonomous ground and aerial vehicles. Prior to joining EFF, Dr. Gillula was a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California at Berkeley in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, where he developed novel methods for guaranteeing the safe operation of machine learning algorithms. He also has extensive experience with mobile sensor platforms and robotics, including both ground and aerial autonomous vehicles.

    Michael Spadea is a Director at Promontory Financial Group where he advises clients on a wide range of regulatory and compliance issues related to privacy and information governance, including development and implementation of global privacy programs, management of vendors, and integration of privacy into emerging technology and business models. Prior to joining Promontory, Spadea worked at Microsoft where he was responsible for all aspects of information governance for enterprise customers in the Services division.

    Christopher Wolf is a senior partner at Hogan Lovells, where he leads the firm’s global privacy and information management practice. He is also the founder and chair of the Future of Privacy Forum, a think tank devoted to advancing responsible data practices and helped to organize and lead the Coalition for Privacy and Free Trade. Wolf has written and spoken widely on big data issues and chairs the Anti-Defamation League National Civil Rights Committee. Wolf was the editor and lead author of the first PLI treatises on privacy law and with Abraham Foxman, co-authored Viral Hate: Containing its Spread on the Internet (Macmillan Palgrave 2013).

  • Request for Comments

    The Commission invites interested persons to submit written comments on issues related to this workshop.  The submission deadline for pre-workshop comments is August 15, 2014, but the comment period will be held open until October 31, 2014.

    To File Electronically:

    To make sure that the Commission considers your online comment, you must file it at, by following the instructions on the web-based form.

    To File in Paper Form:

    Postal mail addressed to the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security screening. As a result, we encourage you to submit your comments online. If you file your comment on paper, write “Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion? Workshop, Project No. P145406,” on your comment and on the envelope, and mail or deliver it to the following address:

    Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary
    Room H-113 (Annex X)
    600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
    Washington, DC 20580

    If possible, submit your paper comment to the Commission by courier or overnight service.

    Comments will be posted on this website:

    Your comment—including your name and your state—will be placed on the public record of this proceeding. As a matter of discretion, the Commission tries to remove individuals’ home contact information from comments before placing them on the Commission Website.

    Because your comment will be made public, you are solely responsible for making sure that your comment does not include any sensitive personal information, like anyone’s Social Security number, date of birth, driver’s license number or other state identification number or foreign country equivalent, passport number, financial account number, or credit or debit card number. You are also solely responsible for making sure that your comment does not include any sensitive health information, like medical records or other individually identifiable health information. In addition, do not include any “[t]rade secret or any commercial or financial information which is obtained from any person and which is privileged or confidential,” as provided in Section 6(f) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. § 46(f), and FTC Rule 4.10(a)(2), 16 CFR 4.10(a)(2). In particular, do not include competitively sensitive information such as costs, sales statistics, inventories, formulas, patterns, devices, manufacturing processes, or customer names.

    To Request Confidential Treatment:

    If you want the Commission to give your comment confidential treatment, you must file it in paper form, with a request for confidential treatment, and you have to follow the procedure explained in FTC Rule 4.9(c), 16 CFR 4.9(c). Your comment will be kept confidential only if the FTC General Counsel grants your request in accordance with the law and the public interest.

    Comments That Have Been Submitted

    You can view comments that have been submitted at:

FTC Privacy Policy

Under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) or other laws, we may be required to disclose to outside organizations the information you provide when you pre-register for events that require registration. The Commission will consider all timely and responsive public comments, whether filed in paper or electronic form, and as a matter of discretion, we make every effort to remove home contact information for individuals from the public comments before posting them on the FTC website.

The FTC Act and other laws we administer permit the collection of your pre-registration contact information and the comments you file to consider and use in this proceeding as appropriate. For additional information, including routine uses permitted by the Privacy Act, see the Commission’s Privacy Act system for public records and comprehensive privacy policy.

This event will be open to the public and may be photographed, videotaped, webcast, or otherwise recorded.  By participating in this event, you are agreeing that your image — and anything you say or submit — may be posted indefinitely at or on one of the Commission's publicly available social media sites.