Our Work

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.

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report by Miranda Bogen and Aaron Rieke | 10 December 2018
Help Wanted: An Examination of Hiring Algorithms, Equity, and Bias

Without active measures to mitigate them, bias will arise in predictive hiring tools by default. This report describes popular tools that many employers currently use, explores how these tools affect equity throughout the entire hiring process, and offers reflections and recommendations on where we go from here.

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Report By Aaron Rieke and Miranda Bogen | 09 May 2018
Leveling the Platform: Real Transparency for Paid Messages on Facebook

In the first rigorous, independent evaluation of Facebook’s new ad transparency plans, we urge the company to improve its ad transparency tools to enable meaningful public scrutiny.

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Report By Aaron Rieke, Miranda Bogen, and David Robinson | 28 February 2018
Public Scrutiny of Automated Decisions: Early Lessons and Emerging Methods

Automated decisions are increasingly part of everyday life, but how can the public scrutinize, understand, and govern them? This Upturn and Omidyar Network report maps out the landscape, providing practical examples and a framework to think about what has worked.

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Law journal article by Logan Koepke and David Robinson | 19 February 2018
Danger Ahead: Risk Assessment and the Future of Bail Reform

Bail reform is rapidly underway. But at the same moment that jurisdictions work to reduce the true risks of pretrial release through reform policies, jurisdictions across the country are also adopting statistical tools that will blindly predict such risks remain as high as ever. This forthcoming article charts how jurisdictions can avoid making costly errors in their adoption of pretrial risk assessment tools.

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report by David Robinson and Miranda Bogen | 28 January 2018
Automation and the Quantified Society

This framing paper, prepared for the NetGain Partnership, explores how automated decisions are shaping the lives of vulnerable people and groups, and offers suggestins and direction for interested funders and the broader social sector.

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report with Harlan Yu, Aaron Rieke, and Miranda Bogen | 21 December 2017
Beyond Secrets: The Consumer Stake in the Encryption Debate

The encryption debate is generally framed as a struggle between civil liberties and national security. We partnered with Consumer Reports to shed light on why encryption is critical for consumers’ safety and well-being.

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Report with Harlan Yu and Miranda Bogen | 14 November 2017
Police Body Worn Cameras: A Policy Scorecard (2017)

Together with the Leadership Conference, Upturn releases the latest version of our scorecard that evaluates the police body-worn camera policies in 75 major U.S. cities. It continues to show a nationwide failure to protect the civil rights and privacy of surveilled communities.

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Report by Harlan Yu and Miranda Bogen | 14 November 2017
The Illusion of Accuracy: How Body-Worn Camera Footage Can Distort Evidence

Today, most major police departments that use body-worn cameras allow officers unrestricted footage review. This report explains why police departments must carefully limit officers’ review of body-worn camera footage, and calls for “clean reporting” to be adopted by all police departments.

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law journal article by David Robinson | 16 October 2017
The Challenges of Prediction: Lessons from Criminal Justice

This article draws lessons primarily from the domain of criminal justice, to illustrate three structural challenges that can arise whenever law or public policy contemplates adopting predictive analytics as a tool. It then offers some ideas for solutions.

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law journal article with David Robinson and Harlan Yu | 24 February 2017
Accountable Algorithms

Drawing on computer science expertise, we propose a new governance strategy, using cryptography to prove that a decision is rule-bound and correct, even when the decision comes from a “black box” that is secret or is too complex for direct human inspection.

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report by Aaron Rieke, David Robinson, Harlan Yu, and Joris von Hoboken | 01 November 2016
Data Brokers in an Open Society

In a report for the Open Society Foundations, we review the different types of brokerage and profiling products sold by data brokers, survey the relevant legal landscape, and recommend an impact-driven, bottom-up approach to further investigation of data-driven profiling by data brokers.

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Report by David Robinson and Miranda Bogen | 06 October 2016
Data Ethics: Investing Wisely in Data at Scale

This project maps the ways that data at scale may pose risks to philanthropic priorities and beneficiaries, identifies key questions that funders and grantees should consider before undertaking data-intensive work, and offers recommendations for funders to address emergent data ethics issues.

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report by David Robinson and Logan Koepke | 31 August 2016
Stuck in a Pattern: Early Evidence on “Predictive Policing” and Civil Rights

We find that at least 20 of the nation’s 50 largest police forces have used a predictive policing system, with at least an additional 11 actively exploring options to do so. Vendors shield the technology in secrecy, and informed public debate is rare. Early research findings suggest that these systems may not actually make people safer.

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Report with Harlan Yu and Miranda Bogen | 02 August 2016
Police Body Worn Cameras: A Policy Scorecard (2016)

Together with the Leadership Conference, Upturn releases a scorecard that evaluates the police body-worn camera policies in 50 major U.S. cities. It shows a nationwide failure to protect the civil rights and privacy of surveilled communities.

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report by Aaron Rieke, David Robinson, and Harlan Yu | 01 March 2016
What ISPs Can See: Clarifying the technical landscape of the broadband privacy debate

A technical assessment of the present and potential future monitoring capabilities available to internet service providers.

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report by Aaron Rieke and Logan Koepke | 01 October 2015
Led Astray: Online Lead Generation and Payday Loans

We explain how online lead generation works, describe the risks and legal complexities specific to lead generation for online payday loans, document the widespread use of search ads by payday lead generators, and recommend interventions.

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report by Aaron Rieke | 19 October 2014
Knowing the Score: New Data, Underwriting, and Marketing in the Consumer Credit Marketplace

A “missing manual” for policy professionals seeking to better understand technology’s impact on financial underwriting and marketing.

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report by Aaron Rieke, David Robinson, and Harlan Yu | 01 September 2014
Civil Rights, Big Data, and Our Algorithmic Future

How and where, exactly, does big data become a civil rights issue? This report begins to answer that question, highlighting key instances where big data and civil rights intersect.

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report with Harlan Yu and David Robinson | 01 April 2013
Collateral Freedom: A Snapshot of Chinese Internet Users Circumventing Censorship

Users in China can’t freely explore the Internet because of the regime’s “Great Firewall.” But special software tools—when they work—can help users around those barriers. We proposed a new approach to developing circumvention tools, a strategy called “collateral freedom.”