Fair Date Reporting Act

A week ago I heard an NPR radio interview with an FTC representative on web and phone privacy. She said the FTC protects your privacy by making sure firms who collect info on our activities can only use it to sell us stuff, but not to decide on hiring, renting, lending, or insuring. I thought: why is this where we draw our line of “privacy”?

Looking up a recent FTC report (quotes below), I see it goes back to the 1972 Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which required firms that rate you or collect info on you for hiring, renting, lending, or insuring to show you everything your rating is based on, and let you challenge any part of it. And given how completely infeasible it would be to show you all internet info collected about you, or let you challenge any of it, this law basically says that hiring, renting, lending, and insuring decisions must not benefit from the vast increase in info that web/phone tech now creates.

Adverse selection, where the people you least want are mostly like to apply, can plague hiring, renting, lending, and insuring. This is a big problem, and many regulations are said to be designed to deal with it. Yet the FCRA clearly makes this hidden info problem worse, by greatly limiting the info on which such decisions can be based.

To see how far this can go wrong, imagine a Fair Date Reporting Act, requiring all dating decisions to be made on the basis of documented information that potential dates can inspect and challenge. You couldn’t reject someone for a date unless you could clearly document that they are unsuitable. You’d end up relying heavily on some very crude indicators, like weight, education, income, and hair color, and enjoy your dates a lot less. And then they’d probably pass laws prohibiting some indicators as unfair, such as weight.

So why are we more willing to mess up decisions about hiring, renting, lending, or insuring, relative to dating? Because we see those deciders as dominating, because they choose to accept or reject us, and we see big firms as evil. Why don’t we similarly restrict the info firms can use to try to sell us stuff? Because we see ourselves as doing more of the choosing there, making us the dominant party.

Added 11p: Imagine that you were required by law to score all job offers on objective verifiable criteria, such as salary and location, and had to take the job that scored highest. How close would that be to slavery?

Those promised FTC report quotes:

The FTC has resolved seven data security cases, obtained orders against
Google, Facebook, and online ad networks, and challenged practices that violate sector-specific privacy laws like the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) and COPPA. … Consumer reporting agencies … are companies that assemble and evaluate consumer information for use by creditors, employers, insurance companies, landlords, and other entities involved in eligibility decisions affecting consumers. … Pursuant to the FCRA, consumer reporting agencies are required to disclose to consumers, upon request, all items in the consumer’s file, no matter how or where they are stored, as well as the entities with which the consumer reporting agency shared the information in a consumer’s report. When consumers identify information in their report that is incomplete or inaccurate, and report it to a consumer reporting agency, the agency must investigate and correct or delete such information in certain circumstances. …

Even if a company is not compiling and sharing data for the specific purpose of making employment, credit, or insurance eligibility decisions, if the company has reason to believe the data will be used for such purposes, it would still be covered by the FCRA. For example, recently, the [FTC] issued warning
letters to the developers of mobile apps that compiled public record information on individuals and created apps for the purposes of learning information about friends, co-workers, neighbors, or potential suitors. The [FTC] noted that if these apps marketed their services for employment purposes or otherwise had reason to believe that they were being used for employment purposes, the FCRA requirements would apply.

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  • Poelmo

    Me watching pr0n at night doesn’t affect my work performance and so my boss has no right to not hire me or fire me for it, even if he personally thinks pr0n is sinful.

    However, me watching pr0n will affect my relationship with my partner if she thinks pr0n is sinful.

    “Adverse selection, where the people you least want are mostly like to apply, can plague hiring, renting, lending, and insuring. This is a big problem”

    Then make applicants make a friggin’ test that will expose any faults that will affect actual work performance. A real neutral employer will value such a test over gossip (because that’s what information compiled from online activity is), unlike an employer who is just looking for an excuse to exercise his personal bigotry.

    In addition, allowing employers to use gossip will result in a lot of mistakes (after all, one of the chief properties of gossip is unreliability) and it will encourage them to dig in all of our lives and destroy privacy.

    I’m sick and tired of this BS libertarian comparison between dating and work. I will not sacrifice my human right to privacy just so some undeserving, ruthless rich fuckface can add a few more bucks to his billions that are rotting away in a Swiss bank account! (That was my Bill Maher imitation, but I stand behind every word of it.)

    How about a more valid comparison, like, I don’t know: saying that choosing to pay the workers (who made you rich) not enough for them to afford health care and then telling them that you paying part of their health care (with money that they made for you) is somehow undeserved charity so sick workers should just be left to die, essentially amounts to legalized murder.

    How about that?

    • Konkvistador

      Then make applicants make a friggin’ test that will expose any faults that will affect actual work performance.

      There is just one small problem with that. Disparate impact.

      • Poelmo

        There is a world outside the United States where people also value their privacy but American laws have no jurisdiction and minorities actually have access to a decent education…

  • Poelmo

    So beyond the complicated moral issues it’s actually very easy to understand why we would want to draw the line of privacy where we do.

    If we allow private details to influence our dating patterns we can all get something out of it (everyone who dates will find it easier to find greater compatibility, people who don’t date are not affected).

    If we allow employers to snoop into our private lives everyone will lose their privacy but only a few will profit from the (small) efficiency gained. It would be just another way for the megarich to extort money from the general population, in addition to making that population feel miserable.

  • Anon

    Shelter, a job, a loan, and insurance are all considered rights.

    • Poelmo

      Loans and insurance are not human rights because they only have meaning in capitalism and in capitalism they can be provided just fine while preserving privacy, as history has shown (because you know, megacorp inc. will be fine when they make “only” $20 billion in profits instead of $21 billion). Besides, for most people access to jobs (and thus homes), loans and insurance would actually be reduced by loss of privacy.

      • swedenborg

        Loans and insurance … only have meaning in capitalism

        Do you honestly believe that loans have no meaning in feudalism or Titoist workers communism?

      • Poelmo

        Historic feudalism was a form of capitalism, but if there are some communist variants where individuals get loans and insurance then yes, you’ve proven they exist outside capitalism, but my point was that loans and insurance do not exist in a range of economic systems (hunting-gathering, communal bartering, energy accounting, Soviet-style communism) and that they therefore cannot be human rights, only rights that may come with having some economic systems. Even in capitalism insurance is not necessary when the government covers calamities with tax revenues. Insurance and loans are not inherent to human nature, the need for privacy is, even chimpanzees keep secrets from each other.

      • swedenborg

        > Historic feudalism was a form of capitalism

        What about the warrior rulers who owned the all the land makes them capitalists?

      • “Besides, for most people access to jobs (and thus homes), loans and insurance would actually be reduced by loss of privacy.”
        That doesn’t fit with my understanding of signalling econ. The gatekeepers of jobs, homes, loans, insurance etc look for applicant signals to see who would be best. More information allows them to better discriminate, changing the distribution/prices of who gets those things. I certainly would not expect it to decrease the aggregate number of people receiving those things. In fact it should INCREASE it. Fewer people would bother dating under Hanson’s Fair Dating Act, and some gatekeepers will not bother to provide certain things if they don’t have enough confidence that they can find a good candidate. You can argue that there is an aggregate downside for the applicants, because now they have to pay signalling costs, but that is a separate issue from reduced access.

  • Marcus

    Your reasons as usual ignore the obvious one: companies can externalize the people you’d like to think are unemployable, but society can’t.

    • simon

      people wanting dates can externalize undesirable people, but society can’t

    • Poelmo

      Don’t worry about all those unemployed people because libertarians have an airtight solution for that problem: massive numbers of charities will magically spring up from the ground and throw manna at the starving masses.

      Any other questions?

  • Lord

    One is a personal relationship and the others are business relationships. If you are universalist, you want business to be neutral and objective. Crony capitalism is not conducive to growth or democracy.

    • lemmy caution

      Robin repeatedly fails to see the distinction between personal and business conduct and rules. Businesses are under different requirements than people are.

      • Poelmo

        I think he knows the distinction fully well, it’s just not not convenient to his visions of an ultra-capitalist future.

  • Jason

    “And given how completely infeasible it would be to show you all internet info collected about you”

    If it wasn’t feasible to show me all the information collected about me, it couldn’t be feasible to show anyone else all the information collected about me.

    1. Therefore there couldn’t be a person or committee looking at all the information — they’d look at a subset that I could plausibly see.

    2. Therefore couldn’t be software engineers looking at all the information about me who designed an algorithm to process it — there’d either be a) no ability to validate an algorithm that did look at all the information or b) the engineers looked at a subset I could plausibly see.

  • Evan

    An obvious reason for the discrepancy between business and dating is the Law of Diminishing Returns. Allowing businesses to make decisions with certain information will primarily benefit a few people (managers, investors) who already have highly satisfied preferences due to their wealth, while harming many people whose preferences are much less satisfied. Allowing dating to make use of such information will allow a much larger amount of people, many with very unsatisfied preferences, to benefit, while harming people with about equally satisfied preferences.

    There’s also the fact that, while humans instinctively dislike being told what to do, such instincts are stronger in dating than in business. So dating regs violate a much stronger preference than business regs.