Cambridge Analytica and the New MLK DREAM...Data Rules Everything Around Me - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

Last week, people across the globe held events to acknowledge the 50-year anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lorraine Motel. Many emotions and conversations were sparked surrounding the plight of our community and evolved challenges now faced in addition to opportunities afforded by the legacy of Dr. King’s work and sacrifice. Consequently, our news channels and social media timelines were flooded with MLK events, alongside increasing coverage around Facebook data—in particular, Cambridge Analytica, who harvested private data of 87 million active Facebook users that was used to influence the 2016 election, which contributes to an ongoing psychological warfare of social media platform users. 

Both incidences have sparked an almost eerie correlation between Dr. King’s work and the power of data. If Martin Luther King were alive today, would the dream he famously spoke of be around democratizing data for the black community? 

In Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a DREAM” speech, what if the dream now stands for Data Rules Everything Around Me. Data-driven decisions rule everything, especially in business, economic development, and, most importantly, our community. As such, it becomes increasingly important we do not ignore unfolding developments surrounding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica’s unholy union and possible implications.  

Enter the organization Data for Black Lives—a nonprofit organization of over 2,000 scientists, activists, organizers, and mathematicians committed to the mission of using data science to create concrete and measurable change in the lives of black people—which released an open letter and petition to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on April 4, essentially asking the same question in regard to the usage of user data. I, for one, am desperately awaiting Facebooks response.

Since the advent of computing, big data and algorithms have penetrated virtually every aspect of our social and economic lives. These new data systems have tremendous potential to empower communities of color. Tools like statistical modeling, data visualization, and crowd-sourcing, in the right hands, are powerful instruments to battle bias, build progressive movements, attract needed funding for businesses and communities while promoting civic engagement.

Nonetheless, history tells a different story, one in which data is too often wielded as an instrument of oppression, reinforcing inequality and perpetuating injustice as with redlining—a data-driven enterprise that resulted in the systematic exclusion of black communities from key financial services and housing. More recently, trends like predictive policing, risk-based sentencing, and predatory lending are troubling evolutions of our painful past. Today, discrimination is a high-tech enterprise.

In their open letter, written by their co-founder Yeshimabeit Milner, the group is asking Facebook for the following:

  1. Commit anonymized Facebook data to a Public Data Trust.
  2. Work with organizers, activists, technologists, advocates, and ethicists to establish a Data Code of Ethics.
  3. Commit to increase the number of black people on Facebook’s research and analytics staff.
  4. A robust, transparent, and accountable research review process within Facebook

To sign the petition or to learn more visit d4bl.org/action.

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Felecia Hatcher

Felecia Hatcher is on a mission to rid communities across the globe of innovation deserts by working with community leaders and government officials to create an inclusive and diverse tech/startup ecosystems as the Co-Founder of Tribe Cowork and Urban Innovation Lab, Code Fever, and Black Tech Week.. Code Fever is an initiative connects minority led startup founders to capital through their VC in Residence program, tech skills training for African American and Caribbean youth and young adults in the areas of technology and entrepreneurship through full stack development coding boot camps, in school programs and an annual weeklong emerging technology summit called BlackTech Week and in 2018 launched the Tribe Co-Work and Urban Innovation Lab to create innovation hubs in Black Communities. Hatcher has raised over 3 million dollars to support Code Fever's work which sits at the intersection of economic development and inclusive innovation. As an Author, Social Entrepreneur and the former “Chief Popsicle” of Feverish Ice Cream, Hatcher was named one of the Empact 100 Top 100 Entrepreneurs under the age of 30 by the White House and Kauffman Foundation in 2011, a 2014 White House Champion of Change for STEM Access and Diversity, Ruth Shack Honoree, 2017 Comcast/Nationswell Tech Impact Allstar, Echoing Green Fellow, a Black Enterprise 2017 TechConnext Game Changer and 2016 Innovator of the Week, Essence Magazine Tech Master, and featured on the NBC Today Show, MSNBC, FORBES, INC, The Cooking Channel, & Grio’s 100 African Americans Making History. For 7 years, Felecia was known as the “Chief Popsicle” and ran Feverish Pops a Miami based gourmet popsicle manufacturing company with clients like Google, Airbnb, Paypal, Cadillac, Adidas, and Wholefoods. The VC backed company had a huge social mission and donated to build community programs, which is where Code Fever was launched in 2012. Before launching Feverish and Code Fever, Hatcher worked as a marketing manager at experiential marketing agencies for technology and gaming companies Sony, Nintendo, Wells Fargo 2nd Life Video game as well as the NBA as the front office Marketing Manager with the Timberwolves/Lynx during its championship winning year. A globally sought-after keynote speaker presenting engaging talks at Walmart HQ, Google London, United Nations, White House Young America Series, Girl Scouts of America, SXSW, Coca-Cola HQ, FBLA, DECA, Knight Foundation, TEDxJamaica and countless startup events, colleges, and universities. Hatcher is also the author of 6 books. Hatcher is also the author of books: Start your Business on a Ramen Noodle Budget, Focused, Become an Epic Expert, PopPreneurs and the C Students Guide to Scholarships


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