Technology and politics have a complex relationship, where people and communities bring them together. This is especially true in Columbia, Maryland, where the county executive is the head of the executive branch of government and is elected to a four-year term. In this article, we will explore how AI systems and other technologies are used to limit access to equal opportunities in education, housing, and employment, as well as how they are used to transfer the burden of supervision and efficiency from employers to workers, from schools to students, and from landlords to tenants. Panelists at the Maryland American Employment Centers (Columbia Workforce Center) discussed how these technologies can have a disparate impact on communities of color due to the lack of stricter privacy protection measures at the federal or state level. This increases the forms of surveillance used by police officers and aggravates historical prejudice.
Furthermore, they raised the question of power structures, providing examples of how strict transparency requirements in smart city projects helped to reshape power and give more voice to those who lack the financial or political power to effect change.
Congressmust go beyond general privacy provisions and incorporate additional measures to address facial recognition and biometric information, given their enormous potential to generate a disparate impact in the context of law enforcement. The OSTP co-organized a series of six roundtables in collaboration with the Center for American Progress, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies of New America, the German Marshall Fund, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and the Mozilla Foundation. Panelists separately described the growing scope of the use of technology to provide social welfare, including in fraud detection, digital identification systems, and other methods focused on improving efficiency and reducing costs. Robert Former, director of information security (CISO) at Acquia, reflected: “What you see in the world of technology with Apple, etc., is that they have surpassed everyone else. Those who avoid conflict and those who are simply politically exhausted are withdrawing from the political process entirely as mistrust in the government increases.”It is clear that technology has a significant impact on politics in Columbia, Maryland.
It can be used to limit access to equal opportunities or it can be used to empower those who lack financial or political power. It is up to Congress to ensure that stricter privacy protection measures are put into place so that technology does not have a disparate impact on communities of color.