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OPLIN 4Cast #574: Algorithms on trial

Posted in 4cast, and Algorithms

All at once, it seems that algorithms, the means by which computers solve their problems, are themselves becoming problematic. “Algorithm” used to imply objectivity, an impartial analysis of data. Now, there seems to be a more sinister connotation, suggesting hidden biases (some intentional, some not) and exploitable weaknesses. Concerns are growing that these decision-making tools are faulty, leading us to trust the wrong authorities, make poor purchasing decisions, and introduce troubling biases into public policy and communication. There seems to be growing pushback, in the form of laws and lawsuits.

  • 2017 Was The Year We Fell Out of Love with Algorithms [Wired | Tom Simonite] “We need algorithms. In 2018, let’s hope we can hold the companies, governments, and people using them to account, without letting the word take the blame.”
  • Apple sued after it admits to slowing down older iPhones [CNBC | Arjun Kharpal] “The U.S. technology giant said that it has algorithms in place to help keep an iPhone running at optimal performance if there is an older battery inside that can’t keep up with the required power.”
  • Facebook ads that let employers target younger workers focus of U.S. lawsuit [Reuters | Sharon Bernstein] “The lawsuit is the latest example of criticism leveled at Facebook for so-called micro-targeting, a process that has allowed advertisers to choose who sees their ads based on age, interests, race and even such characteristics as whether they dislike people based on race or religion.”
  • New York City moves to create accountability for algorithms [ProPublica | Lauren Kirchner] “The algorithmic accountability bill, waiting to be signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio, establishes a task force that will study how city agencies use algorithms to make decisions that affect New Yorkers’ lives, and whether any of the systems appear to discriminate against people based on age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or citizenship status.

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