Today, the Legal Defense Fund submitted comments addressing the risk of algorithmic bias in economic justice and law enforcement technologies and proposes a framework the Federal Trade Commission should use as it considers regulation these technologies. LDF urges the FTC to use its existing regulatory authority to protect consumers from algorithmic bias, including bias in products where the end user is a government entity. It should also use its authority to prevent the harms caused by commercially-developed technologies, particularly those that leverage large amounts of sensitive data, that are used by law enforcement to discriminate against communities of color. 

Automated decision-making systems (ADSs) now permeate every area of our lives, from hiring and other aspects of employment, to identifying and securing housing, to accessing government services and supports. Yet there are instances when these systems are not only ineffective but also reproduce or exacerbate inequities, bias, and discrimination. ADSs can exhibit algorithmic bias, creating unfair disadvantages for people of color and other protected classes by preventing them from learning about opportunities, denying them access to opportunities, or requiring them to pay more for the same services. Commercially-developed ADSs and other technologies—some of which may themselves exhibit algorithmic bias, misrepresent their effectiveness, and/or rely on large amounts of sensitive, personal data—can also be deployed by law enforcement in ways that disproportionately harm communities of color, endangering their liberty, physical safety, and risking a range of collateral consequences. 
While some existing civil rights laws may prohibit algorithmic bias against protected classes, these laws are insufficient to protect against algorithmic bias, deceptively marketed ADSs, or the discriminatory deployment of ADSs and other technologies by law enforcement.

Read the full letter here.


Founded in 1940, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is the nation’s first civil rights law organization. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Please note that LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights.