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The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information Paperback – August 29, 2016
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An exhilarating read, brimming with passion. Pasquale’s bold and ambitious book lifts the lid on the ‘black box society’ by tackling a wide array of issues, from secrecy in finance to credit scoring, from search engines to automated decision-making, from institutional transparency to the relationship between government and big corporations. Writing with urgency and utter conviction, he paints a compelling―and devastating―picture of the world that we are building. (Daniel J. Solove, author of Nothing to Hide: The False Tradeoff between Privacy and Security)
A timely and important book about the algorithmic processes that play such central roles in our emerging information society. Pasquale explores the abuses that have resulted from insufficient transparency and exposes the inability of either markets or regulators to instill appropriate levels of accountability. He is not a reflexive technology-basher, however, but instead offers judicious reform proposals. (Julie E. Cohen, author of Configuring the Networked Self: Law, Code, and the Play of Everyday Practice)
Frank Pasquale’s new book on the secret algorithms that motor the monstrous heart of big data is a timely work of non-fiction, a ‘true conspiracy’ about regulatory weakness in the face of technological hubris and greed. (Jonathon Sturgeon Flavorwire 2015-01-12)
Frank Pasquale’s notable new book, The Black Box Society, tries to come to grips with the dangers of ‘runaway data’ and ‘black box algorithms’ more comprehensively than any other book to date…It’s an important read for anyone who is interested in the hidden pitfalls of ‘big data’ and who wants to understand just how quantified our lives have become without our knowledge. (David Auerbach Slate 2015-01-14)
Everyone who uses the Internet for entertainment, education, news or commerce is implicated in a web of data collection whose breadth surpasses ordinary awareness…As [Pasquale’s] exposé…shows, this is a society in which basic functions are performed in deliberate obscurity through the collection and algorithmic manipulation of personal data…In The Black Box Society, Pasquale finds reason to believe that even some of the most secretive and unresponsive institutions can be held to account. Elucidating the problem is a first step. (Steven Aftergood Nature 2015-01-22)
The Black Box Society is a frightening portrait of the ever more powerful shadowy world that blocks light from reaching our everyday lives. It is also a call to action, with a range of suggestions that inevitably pale in comparison to the gargantuan task at hand. But small steps sometimes have outsize consequences. Just ask the folks who control what we see, influence what we buy, and determine whether we can pay for it. (Brenda Jubin Reading the Markets 2014-01-25)
The Black Box Society offers a good dose of fresh thinking and may advance our debates over privacy. It also helps greatly that it is a good read, not just for those who are curious about privacy but also for those who are already familiar with the privacy literature. (Viktor Mayer-Schönberger Science 2015-01-30)
If you are a person in America, then there are equations trying to learn more about you…Some of these equations work for private companies and some of them work for the government, but they all generate correlations based on your behavior…Frank Pasquale’s new book The Black Box Society is a tour of how computational intelligence has come to dominate three important parts of American life: reputation, search, and finance. (Malcolm Harris New Republic 2015-02-06)
This book by Pasquale is disturbing. The premise is that corporate and public unchecked use of computer algorithms to collect and analyze data harms the public…Pasquale calls out Google, Facebook, and the financial industry for unchecked use of data to make profits and broken promises of privacy protection. (Harry Charles Library Journal 2015-03-01)
The algorithmic control that law scholar Frank Pasquale eloquently and intelligently details and analyzes goes beyond money information and into almost every aspect of our lives. For this reason, although it might appear merely to be a book about technology and finance, The Black Box Society, ultimately, is a radical and political work that deserves wide attention… The Black Box Society includes, for example, a fine explanation of the way that corporate and government surveillance work in concert and why we should be concerned about both… [Pasquale’s] brutal on the subject of the NSA, but devastating in his critique of Facebook, Twitter and Google and the myths that continue to surround them: myths of neutrality, myth about the ephemeral nature of their power and more. His analysis of search is pointed and poignant, underlining that we need to understand it better and treat search results more critically and sceptically… Pasquale’s detailed analyses, and his recipes not just for transparency but also for accountability, for more rigour in regulation and harder-hitting enforcement, deserve a careful read―and then action. (Paul Bernal Times Higher Education 2015-03-12) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Frank Pasquale is Professor of Law at the University of Maryland, an Affiliate Fellow at Yale Law School’s Information Society Project, and a member of the Council for Big Data, Ethics, and Society.
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Are you okay with getting charged more for a product because you live in a certain zip code? Are you okay with retail stores using algorithms to discover that you're probably pregnant (and marketing things to you accordingly)? Are you okay with facing a higher credit card interest rate because you signed up for marriage counseling, thus making you more of a "risk," according to a secret algorithm? There's no end to unethical ways data can and will be used against us -- rape victim, gullible elderly, and other "ghoulish categories," as Pasquale calls them. And unlike with a credit score, if a company has a data profile on you, you're not allowed to see it. Pasquale opens our eyes to how this is already unfolding, and he offers several suggestions for how to intervene before things get even worse.
Pasquale's predictions become more and more true every day. In fact, in today's New York Times, a front-page article by Steve Lohr talks about how new banks sift through "unusual data" to make loans. In the article, Lohr says, "By law, lenders cannot discriminate against loan applicants on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age or the receipt of public assistance. Big-data lending, though, relies on software algorithms largely working on their own and learning as they go. The danger is that with so much data and so much complexity, an automated system is in control. The software could end up discriminating against certain racial or ethnic groups without being programmed to do so."
If you think big tech companies are your friend, and they're just looking out for the little guy, and they're here to empower you, then you're probably not going to be persuaded by this book. But if you're at all worried that these companies might not have your best interests at heart, buy this book now, and learn ways to fight The Black Box Society.
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Looking at the amount of data being amassed about each of us, the transparency or lack of it...Read more