Event 5/11 re new book on black box decisionmaking & consumers

UPDATED TO CONFIRM CFPB Speaker. We are hosting an event Monday, 5/11, from 9am-noon ET to discuss a new book, The Black Box Society, with author Frank Pasquale. Click Keep Reading to RSVP to attend in person or to watch the livestream. While credit bureaus have long functioned as black box gatekeepers to opportunity, panelists will discuss the growing use of more and more, even less transparent black boxes to categorize consumers in the digital economy.

Update: CFPB’s speaker will be Peggy Twohig, Assistant Director, Office of Supervision Policy.

U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Center for Digital Democracy are excited to announce that Professor Frank Pasquale (University of Maryland Law School) will discuss his new book “The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information.” (Harvard University Press, January 2015)

Seminar: Looking Inside The Black Box Society

Save the Date! Monday 11 May, 9AM-12 PM Noon, (the event is free and open to the public but an RSVP is required to attend in person (due to space limitations). A livestream link will be provided to those who RSVP for the livestream only).

RSVP HERE for “Looking Inside the Black Box Society” (http://bit.ly/1FAvSBj)

Following Professor Pasquale’s presentation, panels of civil society and government experts will discuss the implications of his findings for economic and employment opportunity.

The event will be open to the media and public and will be live web-streamed.

 Looking Inside The Black Box Society: 9:00-noon, Monday, 11 May

Where:  Public Citizen, 1600 20th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 (Google Map). The event is free and open to the public but requires an RSVP (http://bit.ly/1FAvSBj). Livestream will be available. Please RSVP for “Livestream only” option.

9:00-9:30 AM Registration and Coffee

9:30-10:00 AM Keynote Address and Commentary by  Professor Frank Pasquale, author, “The Black Box Society” (Harvard University Press 2015)

10:00-11:00 AM Panel 1: Empowering Citizens and Consumers in the Digitally Data-Driven Financial Services Era:  What new policies and practices are required to protect economically vulnerable consumers? Professor Pasquale will be joined by advocates for a discussion of the impact of the Black Box on economic opportunity and possible reform policies.

  • Sarah Ludwig, co-director, New Economy Project-NYC (formerly NEDAP). Sarah was a leader in the recent campaign to win a ban on the use of credit reports for employment purposes at the NY City Council. (confirmed).

11:00-12 Noon: Panel 2:  What do policymakers need to do to “open” up and make accountable the “Black Box?”

  • Jessica Rich, Director, FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection (confirmed). The FTC BCP has issued recent reports on privacy and data brokers, has held a series of its own workshops on privacy, data and potential discrimination and has conducted enforcement actions against firms using digital data tools without complying with applicable consumer protection laws.
  • Peggy Twohig, Assistant Director, Office of Supervision Policy (confirmed). The CFPB has issued reports (latest, May 2015) on the credit reporting industry and, under authority granted by Congress, since fall 2012 has supervised (examined) the activities of larger participants in credit reporting markets (essentially, examination authority gives CFPB the right to look inside the black box).

About the USPIRG Education Fund and Center for Digital Democracy Project on “Data and Consumer Protection: Ensuring a Fair and Equitable Financial Marketplace:” (PROJECT HOME PAGE)

“Looking Inside the Black Box Society” is one in a series of events hosted by USPIRG Education Fund and CDD to promote needed discussion of the impact of the digital marketplace on economic opportunity. The project has also authored path-breaking research, including the Suffolk University Law Review article “Selling Consumers, Not Lists” and the report “Big Data Means Big Opportunities and Big Challenges: Promoting Financial Inclusion and Consumer Protection in the “Big Data” Financial Era.” The project home page has links to more reports and case studies, including several recent reports explaining online lead generation.

USPIRG Education Fund and CDD acknowledge the support of the Ford Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment and the Digital Trust Foundation for support of our research and education work on data and financial opportunity. We thank them for their support but acknowledge that the work, events, reports  and investigations are those of the authors and organizations alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Foundations. We also thank Public Citizen for the venue.


Ed Mierzwinski

Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program, U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Ed oversees U.S. PIRG’s federal consumer program, helping to lead national efforts to improve consumer credit reporting laws, identity theft protections, product safety regulations and more. Ed is co-founder and continuing leader of the coalition, Americans For Financial Reform, which fought for the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, including as its centerpiece the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He was awarded the Consumer Federation of America's Esther Peterson Consumer Service Award in 2006, Privacy International's Brandeis Award in 2003, and numerous annual "Top Lobbyist" awards from The Hill and other outlets. Ed lives in Virginia, and on weekends he enjoys biking with friends on the many local bicycle trails.