We live in an age when prices for an ever-growing list of products and services are set by plugging personal information about ourselves into complex algorithms. For example, health insurance costs fluctuate with our age, and airline tickets can get pricier based on our browsing history. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with customizing costs based on factors that are truly relevant, data-driven pricing is a rapidly expanding part of our lives that offers little transparency—and one that can often carry hidden biases.

In the past, CR investigations into the car insurance industry turned up evidence that insurers frequently set rates based on pieces of personal information that have nothing to do with driving risk—including credit scores and occupations. This month we're publishing the results of a new investigation, conducted with the nonprofit journalism organization ProPublica, that raises even more red flags about the factors that go into—and the prices that come out of—the opaque formulas that determine our insurance premiums. For more than a year our statisticians have examined reams of data points across four states. What we uncovered was disturbing: We found that some insurers were charging higher rates in minority neighborhoods than in whiter neighborhoods with similar average levels of accident-related costs.

When drivers in minority neighborhoods are forced to pay higher premiums, the ripple effects can be devastating—family budgets drain more quickly, employment opportunities are hindered, and communities are restrained from growth. As more and more of the costs of living become entangled with algorithms, Consumer Reports is committed to dissecting the data and shining a light on hidden issues that affect consumers, wherever they arise—so that we can work to ensure that our shared values of fairness and transparency are what are shaping the marketplace as it evolves in the digital age.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the July 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.