Northeastern law scholar Rashida Richardson has been appointed to a new White House role in which she will help to advise President Joe Biden and others on issues related to data, automated systems, digital privacy and security, and civil rights.
Richardson, a 2011 law school graduate who joined the Northeastern faculty as assistant professor of law and political science on July 1, was also tapped to join the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy as its senior policy advisor for data and democracy this summer.
For the first time, the office director is also a member of Biden’s Cabinet. The Office of Science and Technology Policy administers the Cabinet-level National Science and Technology Council and the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
“It’s an honor,” Richardson said. “I think I’m someone—based on my experience and scholarship as a civil rights practitioner—who traditionally might not have been in this office. The hires in this office signal that this administration is taking technology, data, and science issues seriously and with a critical eye toward equity.”
Richardson will work with various federal agencies and executive offices to “advise the Biden administration on its approach to the use of data, emerging technologies, and civil rights and liberties,” she said.
“We are incredibly proud of Rashida being appointed to this important post,” said James Hackney, dean of the School of Law. “I have no doubt that she will have a positive impact on our nation’s technology policy.”
She brings deep experience to the role. Richardson specializes in race, emerging technologies, and law, and was a senior visiting fellow in the Digital Innovation and Democracy Institute at the German Marshall Fund. Her research focuses on the social and civil rights implications of data-driven technologies, including artificial intelligence. She also develops policy interventions and regulatory strategies regarding those data-driven technologies, surveillance, and racial discrimination in the technology sector.
In practice, such issues crop up routinely in daily life. Credit-scoring in the United States is a data-driven system that’s subject to racial bias, and digitized ad-targeting platforms online have been shown to exhibit discriminatory behavior, a particularly thorny problem when it comes to advertisements for credit, employment, and housing—domains that have special legal protection in the U.S. to prevent discrimination.
“There are so many uses of data in our daily lives and this is going to be an opportunity to use my experience to advance civil rights in science and technology,” Richardson said.
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