We drive policy outcomes and spark debate through reports, scholarly articles, regulatory comments, direct advocacy efforts together with coalition allies, articles and op-eds, and participation in events including public panels, conferences, and workshops. Here's a selection of our recent work.
We filed a legal brief arguing that Section 230 should not fully immunize Facebook’s Ad Platform from liability under a California antidiscrimination law. We describe how Facebook itself, independently of its advertisers, participates in the targeting and delivery of insurance ads based on gender and age.
Upturn submitted this testimony in support of DC legislation that would seal many eviction records and limit their use to make housing decisions. Millions of people are evicted every year, and many end up locked out of future housing opportunities simply for having an eviction record in their name, regardless of the circumstances or outcome of the case. Eviction record sealing measures are an urgently necessary step toward housing more people.
The DC Council is considering several renter protections that housing advocates have been working on for years. Upturn testified in support of a bill to make it harder for landlords to reject tenants because of eviction records and credit history.
Working with the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard Law School, we filed a brief with the Superior Court of New Jersey supporting the defense’s request to fully examine TrueAllele, the probabilistic DNA analysis software used in the case, in order to assess its reliability. TrueAllele has not been validated through independent studies and its source code has never been independently reviewed. Our brief argued that each aspect of TrueAllele must be subject to independent and adversarial review and that the Court must fulfill its gatekeeping function and not allow the makers of TrueAllele to shield it from such a review.
Alongside the ACLU, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, First Look Media, and several academics, we filed an amicus brief in a case in front of the Supreme Court. Our brief argued that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act should not criminalize violations of computer use policies, like terms of service. Such a broad interpretation of the CFAA would chill critically important online discrimination testing, which frequently requires researchers to violate computer use policies.
We filed a legal brief arguing that Section 230 should not fully immunize Facebook’s Ad Platform from liability under California and D.C. law prohibiting discrimination. We describe how Facebook itself, independently of its advertisers, participates in the targeting and delivery of financial services ads based on gender and age.
Consistent with the calls to defund the police by Black-led DC-based organizers, we testified that the District needs a new approach to public safety, including a significant reduction in taxpayer spending on police surveillance technologies.
Along with more than 150 organizations, we called on the Attorney General to rescind guidance which said that only individuals assessed as minimum risk by PATTERN — a risk assessment tool built as a result of the First Step Act — should receive “priority treatment” for release during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Together with The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, we urged the Subcommittee to ensure that hiring technologies are developed and used in ways that respect people’s civil rights, and offered recommendations concerning transparency and oversight.
We filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, arguing that the Court should not order the implementation of a pretrial risk assessment instrument as a bail reform measure in Philadelphia. We describe the academic, technical, legal, and policy research that counsels against adopting such a tool.
We are suing the NYPD for records concerning the department’s use of mobile device forensic technology. Upturn is represented on a pro-bono basis by Shearman & Sterling, LLP and the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P.)
We argued that HUD’s proposed changes to its disparate impact rule would undermine crucial housing protections for vulnerable communities by reducing plaintiffs’ ability to address discriminatory effects arising from the use of algorithmic models.
Before the House Committee on Financial Services’s Task Force on Financial Technology, Aaron testified that some types of nontraditional data can help underserved consumers access credit.
Together with computer security experts, we filed an amicus brief in support of the unsealing of a judicial opinion regarding the federal government’s attempt to wiretap Facebook Messenger voice calls, which are end-to-end encrypted.
We filed comments with the Judicial Council of California on two of its proposed new court rules. We argued that the proposed rules on how courts use pretrial risk assessment tools need significant modifications in order to be constitutionally defensible and to protect civil rights.
We filed a legal brief arguing that Section 230 should not fully immunize Facebook’s Ad Platform from the Fair Housing Act. We describe how Facebook itself, independently of its advertisers, participates in the targeting and delivery of housing advertisements based on protected status.
We offered comments to the Federal Trade Commission on the implications of algorithmic decision tools used in consumer advertising and marketing campaigns.
We wrote a letter to Axon’s AI Ethics Board to express serious concerns about the direction of Axon’s product development, including the possible integration of real-time face recognition with body-worn camera systems. We were joined on this letter by 41 other civil rights, racial justice, and community organizations.
With The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Americans for Financial Reform, we explore the risks and benefits of new types of credit data for historically disadvantaged groups. The comments spotlight data that is most predictive of likelihood and ability to repay, and least likely to raise fair lending concerns.
Upturn files an objection to the NYPD’s proposed body-worn camera policy, together with the Leadership Conference, the Center for Media Justice, Color Of Change, and other groups.
Harlan testifies at a hearing held by the Philadelphia City Council Committee on Public Safety on the Philadelphia Police Department’s current body-worn camera policy, which is not meeting national best practices.
Upturn coordinated the development of a shared set of civil rights principles for body-worn cameras. The principles were endorsed by a major coalition of 34 local and national organizations, including the NAACP, National Council of La Raza, National Urban League, Center for Media Justice, ACLU, and others.