Black Box Society: the codes have gotten out of hand

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Franck Pasquale is Professor of Law at the University of Maryland (USA). In early 2015, he published a book that quickly became a reference: The Black Box Society. A meticulous analysis of the uncontrolled development of the power of algorithms in our societies. We were talking about it yesterday when we reported on Jennifer Granick's lecture "  Internet, the end of a dream? ». This must-read book is now being published in French by éditions FYP.
 
Captured, compiled, archived, our personal data and digital traces are silently injected into the heart of the Big Data. Hidden algorithms influence our choices, determine our creditworthiness, judge our employability, predict our actions or simply monitor us. The giants of Silicon Valley and finance give algorithmic verdicts that play a central role in our lives and decide the fate of start-ups, innovators and the entire economy.
 
Questioned by the Obs on the occasion of the release of his book in the United States, Franck Pasquale defined what these black boxes are and their consequences: " The black box is an engineer's metaphor, which describes a system in which you know what goes in and what comes out, but nothing of the transformation that took place in between.
For a long time, the American press presented Google as a model for companies, highlighting all its nice sides: the delicious canteen, the massages offered, the decisions left to the engineers... But these articles said nothing about the role of lawyers and financiers, who worked to keep secret all the internal workings of the company. That's the black box: what happens in companies is protected by secrecy.
Today, in the United States, more and more companies are claiming that all the data analysis they carry out internally is a trade secret, and that the scoring algorithms of a person or company are protected by the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of expression. Some courts have already accepted these arguments. This is how an increasingly impenetrable black box is created... ".
 
In Black Box Society, Frank Pasquale paints a frightening portrait of a dark world where neutrality is only a myth. After more than ten years of investigation, he lifts the lid on the black boxes and reveals how powerful private and government interests abuse trade secrets, betray our trust, and make huge profits from algorithmic manipulation. His analysis is unequivocal: " The ability to monitor the every move of others, while hiding one's own, is the highest form of power.
This is the Platonic story of the Ring of Gyges: he who is invisible, and can therefore see everything others do without their knowledge, has a huge strategic advantage. It is the mainspring of companies like Google or Facebook. They say they owe their wealth and success to having the best data analysts and the best algorithms. But this success is less due to special skills than to a special position of power, which allows them to keep an eye on everyone while keeping themselves out of sight. ".
 
Faced with the urgent need for citizens and politicians to react, he proposes methods to bring transparency to this black box society that controls our lives and conditions our future.
 
 
 
 
 
Video of the author:
 
 

Frank Pasquale is a professor of law at the University of Maryland, a researcher with the Information Society Project at Yale Law School, and a member of the Council for Big Data, Ethics, and Society. He has long worked on the relationship between information technology and the law, with a particular interest in the social and ethical dimensions of these issues.

To go further: Large Format " Under the reign of Algorithms "

 

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