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How can we stop algorithms telling lies?

Posted on August 8th, 2017 at 9:02 by John Sinteur in category: News


What organisation will put a stop to the oncoming crop of illegal algorithms? What is the analogue of the International Council on Clean Transportation? Does there yet exist an organisation that has the capacity, interest, and ability to put an end to illegal algorithms, and to prove that these algorithms are harmful? The answer is, so far, no. Instead, at least in the US, a disparate group of federal agencies is in charge of enforcing laws in their industry or domain, none of which is particularly on top of the complex world of big data algorithms. Elsewhere, the European commission seems to be looking into Google’s antitrust activity, and Facebook’s fake news problems, but that leaves multiple industries untouched by scrutiny.

Even more to the point, though, is the question of how involved the investigation of algorithms would have to be. The current nature of algorithms is secret, proprietary code, protected as the “secret sauce” of corporations. They’re so secret that most online scoring systems aren’t even apparent to the people targeted by them. That means those people also don’t know the score they’ve been given, nor can they complain about or contest those scores. Most important, they typically won’t know if something unfair has happened to them.

Given all of this, it’s difficult to imagine oversight for algorithms, even when they’ve gone wrong and are actively harming people. For that matter, not all kinds of harm are distinctly measurable in the first place. One can make the argument that, what with all the fake news floating around, our democracy has been harmed. But how do you measure democracy?

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  1. we have already lost the “war” with the machines?

  2. Why not truth in labeling? like – “the following report has been not been developed, written or vetted or by humans, just algorithms” or “your insurance has been denied because our algorithm.”