Hidden algorithms drive decisions at major Silicon Valley and Wall Street firms. Thanks to automation, those firms can approve credit, rank websites, and make myriad other decisions instantaneously. But what are the costs of their methods? And what exactly are they doing with their digital profiles of us?
Leaks, whistleblowers, and legal disputes have shed new light on corporate surveillance and the automated judgments it enables. Self-serving and reckless behavior is surprisingly common, and easy to hide in code protected by legal and real secrecy. Even after billions of dollars of fines have been levied, underfunded regulators may have only scratched the surface of monopolistic and exploitative practices.
Drawing on the work of social scientists, attorneys, and technologists, The Black Box Society offers a bold new account of the political economy of big data. Data-driven corporations play an ever larger role in determining opportunity and risk. But they depend on automated judgments that may be wrong, biased, or destructive. Their black boxes endanger all of us. Faulty data, invalid assumptions, and defective models can’t be corrected when they are hidden.
Frank Pasquale exposes how powerful interests abuse secrecy for profit and explains ways to rein them in. Demanding transparency is only the first step. An intelligible society would assure that key deci¬sions of its most important firms are fair, nondiscriminatory, and open to criticism. Silicon Valley and Wall Street need to accept as much accountability as they impose on others.
Lawrence Joseph interviews Frank Pasquale (Sept. 19, 2014).
Upcoming: New Books in Technology, Hearsay Culture, WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show.
“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
Book Talks (2015)
Jan. 10: FDL Book Salon (online).
Jan. 12: Harvard Club of New York.
Jan. 27: Yale Law School.
Feb. 27: University of Maryland, Baltimore.
Mar. 6: University of Virginia, Inst. for Advanced Studies of Culture
Mar. 12 (tentative): UNC-Charlotte
Mar. 27: Mitchell Lecture at SUNY-Buffalo.
Mar. 30: Rutgers-Camden.
May 6: Media, Arts, Games, & Interactive Computing (MAGIC) Center at Rochester Institute of Technology.