Racist Technology in Action: MyLife.com and discriminatory predation

MyLife.com is one of those immoral American companies that collect personal information to sell onwards as profiles on the one hand, while at the same suggesting to the people that are being profiled that incriminating information about them exists online that they can get removed by buying a subscription (that then does nothing and auto-renews in perpetuity).

The American Federal Trade Commission has filed a case against MyLife.com and its CEO over “allegations they deceived consumers with ‘teaser background reports’ that often falsely claimed to include information about arrest, criminal, and sex offender records, and also engaged in misleading billing and marketing practices.”

Anita L. Allen has written about this case in her article about the “Black Opticon”. She writes:

Personal data of people of color are also gathered and used to induce purchases and contracts through con jobs, scams, lies, and trickery. Discriminatory predation describes the use of communities of color’s data to lure them into making exploitative agreements and purchases. This feature of the Black Opticon searches out and targets vulnerable African Americans online and offline for con-job inclusion.

She lists some egregious examples of this ‘discriminatory predation’:

Discriminatory predation makes consumer goods such as automobiles and for-profit education available, but at excessively high costs. Predation includes selling and marketing products that do not work, extending payday loans with exploitative terms, selling products such as magazines that are never delivered, and presenting illusory money-making schemes to populations desperate for ways to earn a better living.

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