miércoles, 14 de diciembre de 2016

The disturbing investigation of @propublica on algorithms

One of the more interesting web sites concerning the algorithmic society that I have discover along the last months is Propublica. It is not a website specialised on the digital economy but in investigative journalism in the public interest. In the last months they have conducted an in-depth investigation on decisions taken by algorithms and the consequences resulted from them. What follows it is just some of the cases I have found there, enough for strengthening my conviction that regulators should do something more on the issue than be just reactive.

The price of items and services sold in websites is the focus of some of the cases. Due to its dominance on e-commerce, you may be interested in reading the article about the algorithm used by Amazon to present the answer to your requests about any object that you desire to buy. Propublica has discovered how the presentation of the results ordered by price has some tricks that favoured the items sold directly by Amazon. Other article shows Propublica´s discoveries around the different pricing based on geographical area that the Pricenton Review charges for their online courses. Do Consumer Authorities have the capabilities to make such discoveries?

Let´s go to principles. I assume the majority of the people who read this blog are strongly against any kind of racial discrimination. Probably, if you read the articles regarding algorithmic racial discrimination in Propublica you would feel sick. On one hand, there are evidences that algorithms used by public authorities to predict crime in USA are heavily biased against afroamericans. On the other hand, they show how facebook use the racial classification for sorting advertisements. Any of us have any cause to be discriminated, and data hoarders are able to discriminate you. Propublica also discovered that Facebook offered to companies more than 1300 ad categories.

The most disturbing feeling you have after reading the results of Propublica research is that you would feel that you are facing just to the tip of the iceberg. Someone has dedicated time and efforts and have made some discoveries. But what have yet to be known about how the companies handle our digital profiles?


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palyginti kainas