World
When Big Data Becomes Bad Data
Corporations are increasingly relying on algorithms to make business decisions and that raises new legal questions
 
A recent ProPublica analysis of The Princeton Review’s prices for online SAT tutoring shows that customers in areas with a high density of Asian residents are often charged more. When presented with this finding, The Princeton Review called it an “incidental” result of its geographic pricing scheme. The case illustrates how even a seemingly neutral price model could potentially lead to inadvertent bias — bias that’s hard for consumers to detect and even harder to challenge or prove.
 
Over the past several decades, an important tool for assessing and addressing discrimination has been the “disparate impact” theory. Attorneys have used this idea to successfully challenge policies that have a discriminatory effect on certain groups of people, whether or not the entity that crafted the policy was motivated by an intent to discriminate. It’s been deployed in lawsuits involving employment decisions, housing and credit. Going forward, the question is whether the theory can be applied to bias that results from new technologies that use algorithms. 
 
The term “disparate impact” was first used in the 1971 Supreme Court case Griggs v. Duke Power Company. The Court ruled that, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it was illegal for the company to use intelligence test scores and high school diplomas — factors which were shown to disproportionately favor white applicants and substantially disqualify people of color — to make hiring or promotion decisions, whether or not the company intended the tests to discriminate. A key aspect of the Griggs decision was that the power company couldn’t prove their intelligence tests or diploma requirements were actually relevant to the jobs they were hiring for. 
 
In the years since, several disparate impact cases have made their way to the Supreme Court and lower courts, most having to do with employment discrimination. This June, the Supreme Court’s decision in Texas Dept. of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. affirmed the use of the disparate impact theory to fight housing discrimination. The Inclusive Communities Project had used a statistical analysis of housing patterns to show that a tax credit program effectively segregated Texans by race. Sorelle Friedler, a computer science researcher at Haverford College and a fellow at Data & Society, called the Court’s decision “huge,” both “in favor of civil rights…and in favor of statistics.”
 
So how will the courts address algorithmic bias? From retail to real estate, from employment to criminal justice, the use of data mining, scoring software and predictive analytics programs is proliferating at an exponential rate. Software that makes decisions based on data like a person’s ZIP code can reflect, or even amplify, the results of historical or institutional discrimination.“[A]n algorithm is only as good as the data it works with,” Solon Barocas and Andrew Selbst write in their article “Big Data’s Disparate Impact,” forthcoming in the California Law Review. “Even in situations where data miners are extremely careful, they can still affect discriminatory results with models that, quite unintentionally, pick out proxy variables for protected classes.”
 
It’s troubling enough when Flickr’s auto-tagging of online photos label pictures of black men as “animal” or “ape,” or when researchers determine that Google search results for black-sounding names are more likely to be accompanied by ads about criminal activity than search results for white-sounding names. But what about when big data is used to determine a person’s credit score, ability to get hired, or even the length of a prison sentence? 
 
Because disparate impact theory is results-oriented, it would seem to be a good way to challenge algorithmic bias in court. A plaintiff would only need to demonstrate bias in the results, without having to prove that a program was conceived with bias as its goal. But there is little legal precedent. Barocas and Selbst argue in their article that expanding disparate impact theory to challenge discriminatory data-mining in court “will be difficult technically, difficult legally, and difficult politically.”
 
Some researchers argue that it makes more sense to… Continue Reading…
 
Courtesy: ProPublica
 

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Nifty, Sensex may rally - Wednesday closing report
If Nifty is able to hold today’s low, it can rally upto 7,950 over the next two days
 
We had mentioned in Tuesday’s closing report that Nifty, Sensex may record further losses. The indices in the Indian stock market did not improve on Wednesday and closed with losses of 1% and higher. The initial gains of over 240 points in the S & P BSE Sensex came on the back of the government's decision that minimum alternate tax (MAT) will not be imposed on foreign portfolio and institutional investors. The bulls could not sustain their buying due to continued weakness in the Asian markets coupled with less-than-expected macro data. 
 
 
The Q1 GDP came in at 7%, showing signs of slowing vis-a-vis the 7.5% expansion during the previous quarter. The Nikkei India Manufacturing PMI (Purchasing Manufacturers Index) for the last month stood at 52.3, which is marginally down from July's 52.7. 
 
Sector-wise, S&P BSE banking, automobile, capital goods, consumer durables and oil and gas indices came under intense selling pressure.
 
The S&P BSE banking index plunged by 369.82 points, the capital goods index fell by 281.05 points, the automobile index contracted by 216.84 points, the consumer durables index declined by 128.79 points, the oil and gas index decreased by 104.55 points and healthcare index edged lower by 102.75 points.
 
However, information technology (IT) index rose by 125.83 points, technology, entertainment and media (TECK) index gained by 54.83 points and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) index rose by 47.82 points.
 
The top gainers and losers of major indices in the Indian stock markets are given in the table below:
 
 
The closing values of major Asian indices are given in the table below:
 
 
At the time of writing this piece, the DAX was up 0.75% and the FTSE 100 was at 6,069.88, up 1.21%. Dow was trading almost 200 points higher.
 

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Economy & Nation Exclusive
Is this the new face of Indian Income Tax?
It is nice to see this tax-payer friendly action on the part of the Income Tax Department and let us hope that this may be the harbinger of many more good things to come
 
Hope you filed your income tax return (ITR) by now. The earlier you file your return, quicker you will get the refund, if due to you.  If you file your tax returns accurately and with care, chances are that you will get the refund due to you much earlier than last year. Can you believe that this could happen in India? Read further.   
 
 A senior citizen conscious of his responsibility to the State, took pains to personally file his income tax return in the last week of July 2015 for the assessment year (AY) 2015-16, i.e. for the fiscal year 2014-2015. The return was filed online on 30 July 2015 claiming a refund of a few thousand rupees, as his bank had levied tax deducted at source (TDS) on his fixed deposit, which he had to claim back from the Income Tax (I-T) department. As a law-abiding citizen, he had filed the return a month earlier, as this year the last date for filing the return had been extended till 31 August 2015. 
 
A week before e-filing the return he had linked his Aadhaar number with his income tax account in the website of the Department on reading from the newspapers that this would facilitate the verification of his tax return as and when it is filed.  As soon as he filed the return, there was a pop-up on the computer screen asking him to verify his return through various options including through Aadhaar. Within a few minutes of his clicking the Aadhaar option in the pop-up on the computer screen, he received a one-time password (OTP) on his registered mobile. When he mentioned the OTP on the screen, he instantly received on his computer the income-tax return acknowledgment with a notation “Do not send this acknowledgement to CPC, Bengaluru as the return has been electronically verified.” 
 
This simple step saved him the trouble of physically sending the ITR-V duly signed to the Central Processing Centre (CPC), Bengaluru, by post, as done last year.  Thus, ended the onerous task of filing the tax return and he thought that he has now to wait at least for six months, if not more, to get the refund, as he had received a similar refund last year, after about six months of filing the return. 
 

And the wait for refund is over:    

Last week, on 20 August 2015, to his great surprise, he received an SMS from the CPC of Income Tax Dept reading as under: “Refund for Ack No. xxxxxxxxx for PAN No.xxxxxxxxxx for AY 2015-16 has been issued by CPC. Kindly check the status on http://tin-nsdl.com after 3 days.”  And on the 21 August 2015, he got another SMS from his bank that his savings bank account has been credited with the refund amount received from the I-T Department. All this happened within 22 days of filing the tax return. 
 
This may appear a miracle, but it did happen in our country. There was neither any influence nor the use of any contacts to get this refund so fast. It really came in the normal course.  And I understand that there are a couple of more instances of getting the refund so fast this year. Obviously, the Income Tax department appears to have put its house in order and taken steps to fulfil some of the expectations, if not all, of the tax payers, and this is really commendable. 
 
It is anybody’s guess as to whether this is the new people-friendly face of Indian Income Tax or just a flash in the pan. In any case, it is nice to see this tax-payer friendly action on the part of income tax and let us hope that this may be the harbinger of many more good things to come. 
 
(The author is a financial analyst, writing for Moneylife under the pen-name ‘Gurpur’.)

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COMMENTS

Saturn Solar

1 year ago

You are calling this a miracle - getting a refund in 22 days. For me it happened in 12 days. Kudos.

It proves, again, appropriate technology adoption can kill corruption and inefficiency.

Dahyabhai S Patel

1 year ago

IT Department now informs and earlier was sending refund and interest advice as a single figure where you will have to refer the copy of your return and subtract the refund amount you claimed and the refund amount ITD has paid you back with interest. Whether this amount of interest is taxable or not, I do not know!!!

The ITD must supply how and at what rate the interest is calculated. The rate must be at least the same at which they charge us for late payment, and logically the rate must be higher. Even penalty also must be there for late payment of refund as a natural justice.

Besides the interest must be calculated from the dates of payment of advance ITs going backwards.

Meeta Agarwal

1 year ago

The refund of Income Tax in 20-22 days is still far from my expectation. I remember in 2001 while filing manual return in IT office and asked when I will get refund, The IT assistant taunted that even after one year, IT may not see your return and this is not USA. I simply give response that a day will come when refund is given by IT immediate or within 24 hours in my life time.
I request IT for immediate refund after filing the return for some rider like if refund is less than 30% if Tax paid, Income is less than 8 Lacs, income is only from Interest particular senior citizens.
Return form should be available from 1st april onwards as we have to wait for 2-3 months to notify forms by IT.

Dahyabhai S Patel

1 year ago

This process started quite before the promises of fake "achchhe din" which is a nothing but jumla like crediting Rs.15L in every Indian's account!!!

REPLY

Gurudutt Mundkur

In Reply to Dahyabhai S Patel 1 year ago

were we not naïve to believe that we could credit of Rs 15 lakh without working for that amount?
We should by now not to believe politicians as a class until they implement what they profess. Until then, take their intentions with more than a pinch of salt.

Gurudutt Mundkur

1 year ago

Glad you could get something to appreciate.
Achhe din aane shuru huvay hai!

Gurudutt Mundkur

1 year ago

Glad you could get something to appreciate.
Achhe din aane shuru huvay hai!

P Jayaram

1 year ago

I am also a senior citizen. I also filed my returns in July 2015. I did not link with aadhar. I got my refund in third week of August 2015, a full one week before the last date of filing. Kudos to all concerned.

Jayaram

Rangachari Krishnan

1 year ago

I pinch myself! Am I in BHARAT?

Rangachari Krishnan

1 year ago

I pinch myself! Am I in BHARAT?

Dahyabhai S Patel

1 year ago

Deducting TDS for FD interest results in less income for FD holder and so lesser IT on that less income if any on the FD Interest besides lot of paper work and power consumption of server for internet use (ecology damage), extra useless work for bank and IT Department employees. So logical is not to deduct the same for the FD Holders who regularly file IT return!!!!!

Salim Ahmed

1 year ago

I think i am luckiest one, filed return on 27 August and received return in bank account on 3rd September. Yes we are now living in progressive India...

TIHARwale

1 year ago

it is nice tax payers are able to get refunds in less than a month of filing returns. However tax payers who had filed manual for AY 2009-10 2010-11 still getting demands for TDS recovered by Banks but getting reflected in different AY but I.T.Department is not making any effort to set of by looking into preceding or succeeding AY and doing adjustment at their end. Instead thy are raising demands but at the same time not refunding excess wrongly reflected in another year. if they do this elementary check they can settle returns of both the AY.

REPLY

Avinash Gupta

In Reply to TIHARwale 1 year ago

Dear sir, I have faced this problem with ITD. After spending lot of time in writing to them, for which no response was received, I finally decided to meet the jurisdiction officer personally. I went to the office and met the dealing person. Two of five matters were resolved immediately. Later I found out no. of Additional CIT of my ward and met her after an appointment. She was extremely helpful and two more cases were resolved the same day. One case is still pending. However, it has something to do with system and local staff is unable to rectify it. However, I am optimistic to resolve the same after some more follow up with ACIT or above. Suggest to go personally rather than sending someone else.

TIHARwale

In Reply to Avinash Gupta 1 year ago

Good that your issues got resolved

S K Gupta

1 year ago

Yes I will agree the current govt is putting a lot of effort to clear the mess created by previous Govt.

REPLY

Subhash

In Reply to S K Gupta 1 year ago

it has nothing to do with previous Govt. You can see big improvement in EPF updating also and things dont change overnight. The infrastructure for all this take years - so let us applaud the good work and give credit to the dept. but dont blame previous Govt. I hope you dontt give the credit of Mangalyan launch also to present Govt.

Avinash Gupta

In Reply to S K Gupta 1 year ago

I think this is partisan comment. This has nothing to with present government. It is a direct consequence of computerization efforts undertaken by the IT department during last decade.

manhar kothari

1 year ago

yes one of our family member got IT refund of AY 2015-16 within 15 days of submitting IT return on line linking his Adhaar number.
We were surprised with this efficient way of working by Income Tax department.
We wish to congratulate department.

Avinash Gupta

1 year ago

I have even a more amazing story of what IT Department is doing. I filed my return on 19/08/15 which was verified online. The return was processed and refund credited to the bank account on 28/08/15 i.e. in 10 days. Intimation u/s 143(1) was received in my e-mail on 01/09/2015. I am happily stunned. Wish to thank the IT Authorities through this post and wish them all success in this endeavour.

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