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The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information
     

The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information

by Frank Pasquale
 

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Every day, corporations are connecting the dots about our personal behavior—silently scrutinizing clues left behind by our work habits and Internet use. The data compiled and portraits created are incredibly detailed, to the point of being invasive. But who connects the dots about what firms are doing with this information? The Black Box Society argues

Overview

Every day, corporations are connecting the dots about our personal behavior—silently scrutinizing clues left behind by our work habits and Internet use. The data compiled and portraits created are incredibly detailed, to the point of being invasive. But who connects the dots about what firms are doing with this information? The Black Box Society argues that we all need to be able to do so—and to set limits on how big data affects our lives.

Hidden algorithms can make (or ruin) reputations, decide the destiny of entrepreneurs, or even devastate an entire economy. Shrouded in secrecy and complexity, decisions at major Silicon Valley and Wall Street firms were long assumed to be neutral and technical. But leaks, whistleblowers, and legal disputes have shed new light on automated judgment. 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 this troubling behavior.

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 decisions 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.

Editorial Reviews

Daniel J. Solove
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.
Julie E. Cohen
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.
Flavorwire - Jonathon Sturgeon
Pasquale has emerged as one of the go-to thinkers on Big Data and the algorithmic economy, and The Black Box Society (along with his Twitter feed) is a great—if discomfiting—place to start. You’ll come away overwhelmed by the speed and recklessness of data compilation and its uses and abuses.
Slate - David Auerbach
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.
Nature - Steven Aftergood
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.
Reading the Markets - Brenda Jubin
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.
Science - Viktor Mayer-Schönberger
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.
New Republic - Malcolm Harris
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.
Times Higher Education - Paul Bernal
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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674368279
Publisher:
Harvard
Publication date:
01/05/2015
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
1,364,908
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

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Meet 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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