The Black Box Society
The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information
New Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in Science, Technology, and SocietyNew Books in SociologyNew Books in TechnologyNew Books Network December 24, 2014 JASMINE MCNEALY
Hidden algorithms make many of the decisions that affect significant areas of society: the economy, personal and organizational reputation, the promotion of information, etc. These complex formulas, or processes, are thought by many to be unbiased and impartial and, therefore, good for automated decision-making. Yet, recent scandals, as well as information uncovered by researchers and investigative reporters have uncovered that these algorithms may not be as neutral as believed. At the same time, there is no mechanism, legal or otherwise, that would force organizations to make these hidden processes transparent for evaluation.
In his new book, The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information (Harvard University Press, 2015), Frank Pasquale, a professor of law at the University of Maryland, and affiliate fellow at Yale Law School’s Information Society Project, explores the significant influence that hidden processes have on finance, search, and reputation. Pasquale examines the increasing corporate, and government, surveillance of consumers, and the incongruity between the secrecy allowed to corporations in comparison to that allowed to regular citizens. In so doing, he calls for greater oversight, transparency, and enforcement to help restore organizational trust and to combat the possible deleterious effects that technical secrecy may have.