The Black Box Society

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

FRANK PASQUALE
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 260
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x0hch
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  • Book Info
    The Black Box Society
    Book Description:

    Every day, corporations are connecting the dots about our personal behavior—silently scrutinizing clues left behind by our work habits and Internet use. But who connects the dots about what firms are doing with all this information? Frank Pasquale exposes how powerful interests abuse secrecy for profit and explains ways to rein them in.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-73606-1
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. 1 INTRODUCTION THE NEED TO KNOW
    (pp. 1-18)

    Everybody knows the story about the man crawling intently around a lamppost on a dark night. When a police officer comes along and wants to know what he’s doing, he says he’s looking for his keys. “You lost them here?” asks the cop. “No,” the seeker replies, “but this is where the light is.” This bromide about futility has lately taken on a whole new meaning as a metaphor for our increasingly enigmatic technologies.

    There’s a noble tradition among social scientists of trying to clarify how power works: who gets what, when, where, and why.¹ Our common life is explored...

  4. 2 DIGITAL REPUTATION IN AN ERA OF RUNAWAY DATA
    (pp. 19-58)

    Tell us everything, Big Data croons. Don’t be shy. The more you tell us, the more we can help you. It’s like the Elf on the Shelf, whom Santa deputizes to do his holiday watching. It sits and reports—naughty or nice? It can move around, the better to see, but only when the kids aren’t looking. If they touch the elf, its magic is lost. But for the obedient, Christmas presents await!

    While most kids don’t believe in the elf past the age of reason, policymakers are still buying into Big Data’s myths. Too many consumers do, too. Eric...

  5. 3 THE HIDDEN LOGICS OF SEARCH
    (pp. 59-100)

    Search, in the view of economic sociologist David Stark, is “the watchword of the information age.”¹ Though most people associate the “search space” with Google, search is a far more general concept. Whether looking for information or entertainment, products or soulmates, we are relying more on dynamic searches than on stable sources. Search pervasively affects our view of the Internet and, increasingly, of “real life.”²

    Search engines host billions of queries per day. They “answer” more and more of them without the asker ever having to click through to another site. They keep track of our friends, real and virtual....

  6. 4 FINANCE’S ALGORITHMS: THE EMPEROR’S NEW CODES
    (pp. 101-139)

    In 2004, the Cato Institute awarded Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto the $500,000 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty. Despite two assassination attempts by communists, de Soto had tirelessly proselytized market solutions for Peru’s poor. American leaders loved his message, since he credited U.S. prosperity to rock solid financial markets and private property protections.¹

    By 2011, de Soto was lambasting the American economic system. He said that the financial crisis revealed a “staggering lack of knowledge” about “who owned and owed” in the United States. The “public memory systems” that America had exported to countries like Peru (such as “registries,...

  7. 5 WATCHING (AND IMPROVING) THE WATCHERS
    (pp. 140-188)

    I’ve spent a good deal of the past decade thinking about how law could make our black box society more transparent. I’ve proposed “fair reputation reporting” to help people understand the stories data miners tell about them. I’ve promoted a “Federal Search Commission” to monitor how search engines are ranking and rating people and companies. I’ve contributed ideas to several meetings of finance transparency activists.¹

    Each of these movements has had some small victories over the years. But it’s not enough just towatchthe key firms controlling our information, our media, and our financial fates. We have to be...

  8. 6 TOWARD AN INTELLIGIBLE SOCIETY
    (pp. 189-218)

    Novelists see things about our lives in society that we haven’t noticed yet, and tell us stories about them. These prescients are already exploring black box trends.

    In his storyScroogled,Cory Doctorow imagines a Google tightly integrated with the Department of Homeland Security. Doctorow’s Google is quite willing to use its control of information to influence politics—for instance, striking fear into the hearts of Congressmen by threatening to let scandalous tidbits about them rise in the rankings of its media finders. One character observes that “ the Stasi put everything about you in a file. Whether they meant...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 221-304)
  10. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 305-306)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 307-311)