Clinic Teams w/Cathy O’Neil for HUD Comment re: Algorithmic Discrimination

We’re big fans of Cathy O’Neil’s work here in the Cyberlaw Clinic, and it was a real pleasure and honor to get to collaborate with her on a comment (pdf) submitted last week in response to a request from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. The comment concerns proposed revisions to the so-called “disparate impact” rule, which would make it more difficult for claimants to succeed in pursuing housing discrimination claims. Of particular note, the proposed rule sets an especially high bar for claimants in cases where housing determinations are made algorithmically. The rule seems to proceed on the assumption that algorithmic determinations are inherently more fair or less suspect than human determinations — a proposition that flies in the face of significant evidence to the contrary. Cathy has done extensive work on these issues (including as set out in her seminal book, Weapons of Math Destruction), and she brought her expertise to bear in the comment by showing how the rule would cause and reinforce harm. We were thrilled to be able to help her share her perspective with HUD.

Tea Skela (HLS JD ‘20) and James Holloway (HLS JD ‘21) — both students in the Cyberlaw Clinic this fall semester, 2019 — took the laboring oar on the comment, working with Chris Bavitz and Mason Kortz on the Clinic team.  Project Coordinator Adam Nagy at the Berkman Klein Center helped out as well.

Photo, Department of Housing and Urban Development.JPG, by Kjetil Ree, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, CC Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic, and 1.0 Generic license.

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