We have seen a frantic surge in interest across the political spectrum in how data-driven businesses are reshaping, even undermining democracy by filtering our access to information in personalised newsfeeds and cutting us off from opposing views, thus undermining attempts to collaborate and compromise. And concerns are surfacing about how data collected for convenient apps might be repurposed: many of the companies mentioned in the book have stated publicly that they would not collaborate in attempts to create a so-called Muslim registry.
Weigend’s crisp description of the mechanisms Google uses to rank its search results was written before the search giant rushed through a fix to its algorithm so that the top result for the query “did the Holocaust happen?” was no longer a link to a Nazi group that denies it. The move was interpreted by many as frank recognition on the data broker’s part of its responsibility for the accuracy and impact of its services. Ranking pages according to how much attention they receive, no matter how sophisticated the analysis, is no longer good enough.