March 1, 2018
The NYU Brademas Center and the Brennan Center hosted a discussion on the use of big data in social welfare, policing, and criminal justice, and its impact on marginalized communities.
Big data has produced big change. As anyone with a phone knows, technology has exploded – and created startling amounts of data about our lives. How is this information tracked and stored, and how does that affect our rights? Algorithms trained on big data have transformed law enforcement and social services. Cash-strapped governments have proven especially eager to use automated tools. Some claim to predict crime “hot spots” and even individuals at risk. Others recommend whether to detain or release defendants before trial. And some assign children to schools and families to shelters. All these automated computing tools today play a larger role than ever before.
Fans praise these as better than fallible human judgment. But do they live up to their promise? How to judge claims by the companies who stand to make money off them? Can we really achieve transparency and efficiency? Do big data tools, as some charge, simply reinforce class and race prejudice under the guise of objectivity? Can these systems be harnessed for good? And how can affected communities gain control over how data is used and packaged?
NOTE: This event was eligible for 1 hour of CLE credit in the Areas of Professional Practice category.
Tamika Lewis is a community researcher for the Our Data Bodies Project, an international research project that is examining the impacts of data-based technologies on marginalized communities and their ability to meet their basic human needs. Tamika has spent the last five years in North Carolina conducing needs based assessments to help support and strengthen statewide organizing infrastructure, focusing primary on developing collaborative civic engagement efforts that prioritize youth, women, and LGB, queer and trans people of color. Overall, they have passion for using data analytics and mapping to support local initiatives, develop local youth leadership, and secure resources to advance and unify local efforts. Tamika holds degree in Social Work and an MS in the Studies of Creativity, with a concentration in Program Development from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
Rachel Levinson-Waldman serves as Senior Counsel to the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Program, which seeks to advance effective national security policies that respect constitutional values and the rule of law. Ms. Levinson-Waldman is active on issues related to policing and technology, including providing commentary on law enforcement access to social media, predictive policing, body cameras, license plate readers, and other types of surveillance technologies deployed in public. Most recently, Ms. Levinson-Waldman published an article in the Emory Law Review on the intersection of the Fourth Amendment and a range of surveillance technologies, titled Hiding in Plain Sight: A Fourth Amendment Framework for Analyzing Government Surveillance in Public. Ms. Levinson-Waldman has also authored a Brennan Center report, What the Government Does with Americans’ Data, on the federal government’s use, sharing, and retention of non-criminal information about Americans for law enforcement and national security purposes.
Ms. Levinson-Waldman regularly comments for television, radio, and print on issues relating to national security, privacy, and surveillance. Her writing has been featured in publications including Bloomberg View, The New Republic, Wired, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, U.S. News & World Report, and Salon.com, and she has been interviewed for Al Jazeera, Nerding Out, and Let Your Voice Be Heard, among others.
Prior to joining the Brennan Center, Ms. Levinson-Waldman served as counsel to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), focusing particularly on matters related to academic freedom and the First Amendment. Previously, she served as a Trial Attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, litigating matters under the Fair Housing Act.
Ms. Levinson-Waldman is a graduate of Williams College and the University of Chicago Law School, and clerked for the Honorable M. Margaret McKeown of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Cornell William Brooks is a fourth-generation ordained minister, widely-experienced civil rights attorney, and national activist committed to prophetic social justice. Mr. Brooks serves as Senior Fellow at the Brennan Center, addressing both criminal justice and voting rights. He was recently named Visiting Professor of Social Ethics, Law and Justice Movements at Boston University, hosted by both the School of Theology and the School of Law. Mr. Brooks also serves as Visiting Fellow with the Institute of Politics at Harvard University, directing the program on campaigns and advocacy (Fall 2017) and Senior Research Scholar at Yale Law School (Spring 2018). He previously served as the 18th President and CEO of the NAACP. Rev. Brooks led the organization in securing 11 legal victories against voter suppression in 12 months; a dramatic increase in the level, visibility and breadth of grassroots activism; high profile opposition to civil rights violations through testimony before the U.S. Senate, engaging/confronting the White House, and using mass civil disobedience; rapid expansion in the number, diversity, and youth of new membership; developing new programs, including a pioneering social impact investing initiative; as well as raising $80 million in new support. He is a regular Contributor for CNN, providing analysis of public affairs, as well as social justice and ethics.
Professor Ferguson joined the law faculty in 2010. He was granted tenure and promoted to the rank of Full Professor in 2015. His articles have appeared in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the California Law Review, the Northwestern Law Review, the University of Southern California Law Review, the Notre Dame Law Review, and the Emory Law Journal.
Professor Ferguson’s book Why Jury Duty Matters: A Citizen’s Guide to Constitutional Action (NYU Press) is the first book written for jurors on jury duty. (Book Review). He stars in the “Welcome To Jury Duty Video” in D.C. Superior Court seen by more than 30,000 citizens annually.
His legal commentary has been featured in numerous media outlets, including CNN, NPR, The Economist, the Washington Post, USA Today, the ABA Journal, The Atlantic (digital), The Huffington Post, and other national and international newspapers, magazines, and media sites.
Professor Ferguson twice received the “Outstanding Faculty Award” for teaching.
Prior to joining the law faculty, Professor Ferguson worked as a supervising attorney at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. As a public defender for seven years, he represented adults and juveniles in serious felony cases ranging from homicide to misdemeanor offenses. In addition to participating as lead counsel in numerous jury and bench trials, he argued cases before the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. Before joining the Public Defender Service, Professor Ferguson was awarded the E. Barrett Prettyman Fellowship at the Georgetown Law Center’s Criminal Justice Clinic. For two years as a Prettyman Fellow, he taught and supervised third-year clinical students involved in the criminal justice clinic. Immediately after graduating from law school, he clerked for the Honorable Chief Judge Carolyn Dineen King of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Professor Ferguson is involved in developing constitutional education projects in the Washington D.C. area. He is co-author of Youth Justice in America (CQ Press 2005, 2014), a textbook for high school students on their rights under the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution. He is on the Board of Directors of the Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop, a non-profit organization that teaches creative writing and poetry to juvenile defendants charged as adults in the District of Columbia.