Google Says “No More” to Online Payday Lender Ads

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Payday photo: Payday Loans

Google is the latest enterprise to join the growing chorus of civil rights, consumer, and faith groups concerned with how payday lending companies carry out their lending practices. In a landmark decision today, the technology giant announced that it will ban ads featuring payday lenders. The decision comes just as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau prepares to issue regulations that would seriously reign in these lenders.

As we have highlighted in our blog series, “Truth in Payday Lending: Stories from Latino Borrowers,” payday lending industry practices have wreaked havoc on millions of consumers. The unsafe financial products they peddle trap consumers, many of them Latino, in a vicious debt cycle that is difficult to get out of.

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Pushing for STEM Careers Beyond the Code

There has been much talk recently about the growing importance of STEM in the country’s economy. In 2013 the White House unveiled a five-year plan to make STEM an educational priority at the federal level. At the community level, NCLR has joined with Affiliates to expose Latino youth and families to STEM education programs with the goal of expanding the pipeline of talent into those careers.

These are important developments. The numbers present the challenge clearly: nearly one in five American workers are Latino, but fewer than one in 10 Americans employed in the STEM workforce are Latino. Companies such as Google and Facebook have made diversity a key goal while admitting they have a long way to go as only a very small percentage of their workforces are Latino or Black.

But the fact the conversation is happening at all is important to Karla Monterroso, Vice President of Programs at CODE2040, a San Francisco-based organization that helps Black and Latino students become successful participants in the innovation economy.

“I think the combination of the release of the data [on STEM participation]… and several stories in the news of what the tech industry has been like for underrepresented people has made this a conversation that people are really engaged with, and for which people are being held accountable for the first time,” she says.

But it’s not just about getting the proverbial foot in the door—or hand in the code. Another challenge is to make sure Latinos and other underrepresented groups are given the opportunity to take on upper management and executive roles in the STEM industry. Monterroso—who was a panelist in the “Strengthening Families through Technology” town hall at the 2015 NCLR Annual Conference—has seen how these young employees are able to thrive when given these opportunities.

According to Monterroso, companies find that students going through the CODE2040 have both the technical skills to get the job done and the emotional intelligence to be successful mentors and leaders.

“Our students are often coming from households in which they are a translator for their families and are taking on responsibilities that are above and beyond their age range,” Monterroso said. “That means they are used to being in roles in which they take great ownership and responsibility, and that happens at the company level all of the time.”

Applications for the next class of CODE2040 fellows can be found at www.code2040.org.

How Much Privacy Do You Think You Have When Using the Internet?

By Irasema Garza, J.D., Policy Advisor, NCLR Policy Analysis Center

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Photo: G4ll4is

Internet privacy concerns among Latinos are on the rise. A recent poll found that close to two-thirds of Latinos have little or no privacy expectations when using the Internet. And they are not alone. All groups surveyed responded similarly.

Edward Snowden’s revelation last year that the National Security Agency (NSA) was reading our email and tracking our phone calls was disturbing for many Americans. It marked a pivotal point in which an increasing number of Americans are expressing concerns over the scope and depth of how the U.S. government’s spying program targets its own citizens.

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Photo: Intel Free Press

After the September 11 attacks, government surveillance measures increased exponentially. Yet most Americans considered them necessary to protect our national security. There was an implied understanding that we had to sacrifice some privacy in exchange for safety. Since then, tight airport security measures, heavy police presence at busy train terminals, and abundant street cameras watching our every move have become commonplace for the American public. However, we know we’re being watched because we can see ourselves being watched. That’s not so with Internet surveillance, which is almost always conducted without the knowledge or consent of the public.

Latinos, other communities of color, and religious minorities have additional reason to be concerned about Internet surveillance. Sophisticated technology enables the government to collect, or acquire from third parties, massive amounts of personal data, resulting in increased risk of profiling and other discriminatory practices. Law enforcement agencies, for example, routinely request major telephone companies and technology giants like Google to disclose data records, including websites visited by specific individuals. The number of law enforcement requests is so staggering that in 2012 AT&T (just one of several companies that receives requests from law enforcement) reported it employs 100 people to process those requests.

It’s not just government surveillance that should have Latinos concerned. Data collection technology allows private industry to track the Internet activity of visitors to a company’s website, even after visitors have left the website. The CBS television news program 60 Minutes recently featured a segment about data brokers, who are part of a multibillion-dollar industry dedicated to tracking individuals surfing the web. They collect and analyze massive amounts of data with little or no regulatory oversight. Personal information is sold to third parties, including other data brokers, or shared with government agencies without individuals’ knowledge or consent. Data brokers and ad hackers are able to compile amassed online and offline data (cell phone tracking, for example) to create a map detailing an individual’s every move.

Photo: Mike Licht

Photo: Mike Licht

Some data brokers work to identify underbanked consumers. The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation conducted an oversight hearing on the data broker industry and found, among other things, that a data tracking company created consumer profiles and assigned descriptive titles such as “Ethnic-Second City Strugglers” and “Credit Crunched: City Families” to attract companies that sell high-cost loans and other financial services to vulnerable communities in need of immediate cash.

Without question, technology has vastly enhanced our lives, making it easier to conduct research, study, learn, stay connected, bank, and shop. It has also enabled unparalleled levels of intrusion into our daily activities with potentially serious implications for groups that have historically been targets of discrimination. Government and businesses making use of data collection technology should abide by notions of fairness, equality, and justice to protect against civil rights violations. These principles were codified and recently published by NCLR and other civil rights organizations to emphasize that technological progress must include safeguards and economic opportunity for all communities. Without these protections, the most we can hope for is an ever-shrinking level of privacy.