Rebel Tech Newsletter: AI Companies Get a Reality Check

publishedabout 1 month ago
4 min read

May 9th, 2023

The Rebel Tech Newsletter is our safe place to critique data and tech algorithms, processes and systems. We highlight a recent data article in the news and share resources to help you dig deeper in understand how our digital world operates. DataedX Group helps data educators, scholars and practitioners learn how to make responsible data connections. We help you source remedies and interventions based on the needs of your team or organization.


“A statement released by the Federal Trade Commission, Department of Justice, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission emphasizes that the agencies aren’t going to give artificial intelligence companies special treatment just because their products are new. They believe what they’re regulating is the activities of corporations, and those are still subject to regulations even if they’re automated. As a result, there's no need for crafting legislation targeted at specific AI tools.

“AI tools can turbocharge fraud and automate discrimination, and we won’t hesitate to use the full scope of our legal authorities to protect Americans from these threats,” said FTC Chair Lina Khan in an accompanying release. “Claims of innovation must not be cover for lawbreaking. There is no AI exemption to the laws on the books.”

The FTC, DoJ, CFPB and EEOC have forcefully set a very large stake into the ground. This 3-page note is an important shot across the bow for companies thinking of using the protection of their company’s intellectual property as an argument. Intellectual property, loosely speaking since I’m not a legal scholar or lawyer, is a creation or invention that originates with a person’s creativity, such as a manuscript, design or artwork. Also,there are 4 general intellectual property categories: Patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets.

For the better part of 50 years, many tech-based companies have protected their innovations/inventions using patents while keeping their innovations secret under the veil of trade secrets. These companies have skirted, for the most part, the public’s pressure for data, algorithmic and AI transparency before deployment followed by corresponding accountability after a tech product’s release. The algorithmic-based harms aren’t one-offs or happening intermittently. These tech companies can’t claim that harms are anomalies with minimal occurrences anymore. They are happening every minute of every day and cataloged as posts on social media platforms, investigative journalist reports and entered into the U.S. Congressional record during numerous hearings. They’re no longer untouchable.

Facing the structural, systemic and baked-in discrimination within their tech innovations has been a hard pill to swallow, which many in the tech community meet with closed minds and ears. They don’t want to hear it. They ignore it. They conjure up a narrative that obsconds them from responsibility. But the 3-page joint letter from FTC, DoJ, CFPB and EEOC starts to close 4 defensive paths to sidestep morality using the legal system.

I encourage you, especially those of you who prioritize humanity over tech, to read their note. I’ll forewarn you though – you’ll be chuckling in spots as these writers took off the kid gloves and wrote plainly.

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"...ethics of any kind is limited in its utility. Understanding the significance and influence of how morality shows up (or doesn’t) in tech innovations isn’t a new phenomenon. It has, however, received renewed attention in light of the more frequent global pronouncement of tech malfeasance." pg 27 Data Conscience

On May 1, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission released their blog post that shared their insightful thoughts about generative AI and its adoption. In a nutshell, the FTC warns companies to avoid practices, such as generative AI misuse, that would harm consumers. I highly recommend that you read it for yourself. Let me go a few step further and focus on what this means for The People. Generative AI tools like GPT-X chatbots, haven’t been vetted through ethical or societal impact bodies. Be wary of companies that are replacing people with these General Purpose AI tools, systems and platforms. They will hit a regulation and compliance brick wall while defending their actions to an AI-literate public, who won’t be afraid to blast them out loud for their intentional irresponsible missteps.


Sis, don’t let anyone make you feel like you don’t belong in the data industry. We’ve been here since at least the late 1800’s through the data journalism work of Ida B. Wells and infographics work of W.E.B. Du Bois [more on Medium]

Set your summer fun plans now – half-days, girls’ nights out, PTO, staycations and vacations. Do them all. Multiple times.

Daily-ish rest routine suggestion: I watch a funny 30-minute comedy nightly. I've already re-watched The Golden Girls, Martin, and Living Single.

Black Women in Data Summit

September 23-24, 2023

ATL | Online

$499 In-Person | $129 Online


The Data Conscience Book Tour 2023 | The State of Washington

On June 14th, Washington State will be joining the Data Conscience Book Tour. Dr. Marshall will be presenting "De-siloing Your Data Strategy For Equity" to their employees during a virtual confrence.

During their session, participants will learn how to make their data/AI projects more equitable while maintaining their existing data operations and processes. The focus is on clarifying ethical gaps, developing practical interventions, and taking action steps to exercise data citizenship and agency. The session will cover how to separate data policies, practices, and products within a single department for a holistic approach and identify inclusivity-based recommendations to address limitations.

Let Dr. Marshall kickoff your company's inclusive tech journey. Join the Data Consciene by filling out the form linked below.

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Brandeis Marshall - DataedX

Learn how to make more responsible data connections. I help educators, researchers and practitioners align data polices, practices and products for equity. Sign up for my Rebel Tech Newsletter!

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