Q&A: Civil Rights and Tech Attorney Rashida Richardson

This post was originally published on DP News

‘Outrage Is Good. It Provides Pressure — but , Occasionally, We Need to Question , In order to Exactly what End ? ’ 

Simply by C. J. Thompson

Second of three components.

Lawful scholar and civil legal rights advocate Rashida Richardson has been featured in Netflix’s “The Social Dilemma” documentary this past year.

In the movie she noted that, “We all are simply operating on the different set of facts. ”

She asserted that one of the most effective methods to understand — and possibly transform — today’s unbalanced power dynamics is for a lot more people to learn and grapple with the facts of the interpersonal and political history that will created them.

Richardson was an architect from the New York Public Oversight associated with Surveillance Technologies (POST) Action, which mandates that the NYPD publicly disclose its monitoring methods. The bill have been debated for over four yrs but gained passage within the wake of George Floyd’s murder last year.

In this second interview, Richardson, assistant professor at the Northeastern University School of Legislation and a German Marshall Account senior fellow— told Electronic Privacy News of the intersection of privacy, history, technologies and culture.

This interview was modified for length and clearness.  

Historically, when did severe privacy issues first occur in the U. S.?  


Most modern types of surveillance — particularly govt surveillance, particularly amongst police force — stem from captivity.

Educator Simone Browne’s book, “Dark Issues, ” covers a lot of this particular history and how it notifies modern surveillance practices.

One example she provides is “lantern laws, ” which required any servant, indigenous person — fundamentally anyone who was not white — to carry a lantern when they were not accompanied by a white individual.

“ There’ t a lot of ways we handle bodies in public and personal spaces that are still racialized, gendered, ableist and knowledgeable by a lot of other biases today. ”

Plus that’s one of those ways of preserving hypervisibility that is a consequence associated with not only surveillance, but also data practices — such as who’s more visible plus, therefore , subject to more overview and who stands in order to benefit from such scrutiny.

There’ s plenty of ways we deal with systems in public and private areas that are still racialized, gendered, ableist and informed with a lot of other biases nowadays.

But many of these stem from who was viewed as human, who is seen as the same — which really dates back to the founding of this nation.

Exactly how did privacy rights develop while being selectively used?

It is about who you are and regardless of whether you’ re seen as somebody who has rights that should be enforced.  

That kind of logic or disconnect, exactly where rights are not extended to any or all people equally despite our own principles of equality within the law, is where you start to view the divergence.

There’ s even the three-fifths guideline (regarding enslaved people within the U. S. Constitution), therefore basically everything about our own constitutional principles have always been totally disconnected from practice.

How does that will impact the discourse regarding privacy?

We often have principles such as “equality, ” which we’ ve never actually used — and that we, actually have completely contradictory stances within our legal framework regarding.

Over time, which is reiterated through court choices and new laws which are created, in that it is constantly on the create a double standard about who you are and how rights lengthen to you.  

What’s the government’s role in violating personal privacy rights after slavery?  

There’ s a critique for the reason that most of American law is founded on individual-rights framing, and how these extend in society completely vary upon race.

A lot of the Supreme Courtroom cases that came out of the particular ’50s and ’60s handled the right to privacy usually but also in public spaces.

How public businesses deal with records, like whether or not phone call records are a report that should be accessible or a company record, are issues that had been being dealt with in these cases.

But at the same time, you’ve kept Jim Crow being used throughout most of this nation — where, essentially, when you’ re a Dark body, you’ re policed in a public space.

Those earlier privacy-case outcomes applied to everybody in theory but not in practice?

I don’ t see starting when this occurs for understanding the right to personal privacy, because how different physiques are treated in a community space — one’ t ability to make private options — has always been different, depending on who you are in society.

That all stems from captivity — and the fact that legal rights weren’t extended to slaves because they were Black.  

So , that is the historical arc.

How we treat individuals generally, and specifically in public areas spaces — their partnership to government — is informed and still very much influenced by the divergent way legislation has treated Black and white systems since the beginning of this nation, specifically since slavery.    

How effective were the particular legal breakthroughs of the Municipal Rights era?  

The Municipal Rights era changed a minimum of the way that the government need to relate to civilians in some ways.

Practices that were racially discriminatory, and even codified in certain laws were sanctioned, no more allowed.

However in many ways, those laws and regulations were never designed to completely address the full scope showing how discrimination works in community, in that all legislation is a type of compromise.

“ It’ s harder to spot means of accountability if a device is involved in a human being decision-making process. ”

So , those deficiencies, as well as the fact that they weren’t made to really target everything — they really were focusing on state actors, and only deliberate acts — is one of the primary problems with a lot of civil legal rights laws.  

In order to succeed in any declare, you need to prove there is purpose. How do you prove intent?

Is some type of this still happening?

We now notice those problems being increased in the tech space.

Decisions or final results that you traditionally could a minimum of interrogate a human regarding or point to an individual as making that decision, it’ s like, “No, it’ s an algorithm! ” 

So then, who will be responsible in that case — or even how do you prove intentional elegance because a dataset was misrepresentative, which is one of the ways that this performs out with facial acknowledgement?

It is much less clear who’s at fault?

It’ s harder to identify way of accountability if a machine can be involved in a human decision-making process .

The discretion that people typically attribute to particular government actors or particular human decision-makers is out of place or distorted by the use of large data or data-driven systems.

A lot of the compromises that came in the laws and regulations that we saw during the City Rights era — we are now seeing the a reduction in those laws, not only within addressing societal problems within the analog sense but also within the digital space.

Outrage over George Floyd’s murder led to the newest York POST Act becoming fast-tracked. Just how can public outrage be used correctly?

There’ s a difference between outrage and action.

That’s one core issue: People go and demonstration about something but then aren’t thinking about local elections.

That’s a detach there.

Additionally you need to think on factors systemically: How does this problem connect with the little bits of power we need to exercise as voters?

So , the particular changes that come about will often be superficial?  

It’s the same along with companies — like IBM, Microsoft and Amazon using their facial-recognition stances, even though all of them weren’t the same.

IBM actually said they do not research and develop face recognition, whereas Amazon simply said they won’ capital t sell to police for the year.

All those are very different stances.  

In some ways, that is just pandering or virtue-signaling, because if all these companies are furthermore producing predictive policing or even equally racially-biased and challenging technologies at the same time — and who truly knows what else is in the particular (research and development) pipeline — the statement indicates actually nothing if you’ re not willing to place your money or resources toward it on the commercial part.  

But people targeting their own outrage via boycotts works more effectively than not boycotting, correct?

To the societal side, outrage that will not have a real “ask” linked to it may not result in any actual change.

I believe we need change.

“ Most people don’t want to do unpleasant, individual, self-reflective work like this. ”

Outrage great. It adds pressure — but , sometimes, we need to query to what end, and that is not always there.

The energy is more centered on performing the protest compared to dismantling the underlying problems?

That’s the things i sometimes find frustrating through an advocacy perspective: Issue your actions if you actually care about racial justice. Are you currently complicit in the problems that are now being raised?

Many people don’t want to do uncomfortable, person, self-reflective work like that.

More work must be done — thinking via on an individual and team level, what is the problem that certain is outraged about, and exactly what is the change that we require — and taking motion towards that.

Next Mon: Facial recognition, the New You are able to POST Act and rejecting panic-messaging.

C. L. Thompson is a New York author.


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