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A review of Privacy, Poverty, and Big Data: A Matrix of Vulnerabilities for Poor Americans

Updated: May 19, 2023

The authors examine the risks faced by low-income people due to the collection and analysis of big data and predictive analytics. While big data systems have the potential to expand opportunities for low-income people, they could also worsen economic inequality by preying on or excluding them due to algorithmic biases. The article presents empirical findings from a nationally representative survey that shows how certain low-status internet users are vulnerable to various forms of surveillance and privacy-related problems, especially due to their reliance on mobile connectivity and lower usage of privacy-enhancing strategies.

The authors discuss three scenarios in which big data is being used: 1) employment screening, 2) access to higher education, and 3) predictive policing. The authors highlight legal gaps that leave low-income people vulnerable to digital discrimination. The article evaluates proposals for enhancing digital privacy and urges policymakers to consider the impact on low-income communities.

The article also emphasizes the importance of digital literacy and privacy-enhancing strategies for low-income individuals. While many people may be aware of the importance of protecting their privacy online, low-income individuals may be more reliant on mobile devices and public Wi-Fi, which can be less secure. Additionally, they may not have the financial resources to invest in privacy-enhancing tools like VPNs or ad-blockers. The article suggests that policymakers should focus on promoting digital literacy and providing resources to help low-income individuals protect their privacy online.

Finally, the article calls for greater attention to the impact of digital privacy legislation on low-income communities. While many proposals for enhancing digital privacy have been put forward, the article argues that policymakers need to consider how these proposals will affect low-income individuals who may not have the resources or knowledge to navigate complex privacy policies. The article suggests that policymakers should prioritize transparency and accessibility in digital privacy policies to ensure that low-income individuals are not left behind.

(This Article is brought to you for free and open access by Washington University Open Scholarship)


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