October 11, 2011
Regulating the Unseen Search Engine Algorithm
Reg Chua ponders how public policy can address questions about fair play when a web search company embeds algorithms and personalization into its core product. In Regulating The Algorithm?:
How can you regulate what you can’t see [i.e. the algorithm]?
How can authorities ensure a fair playing field in a digital age if they can’t be sure what the field looks like? Or if the field looks different to every player?
Thomson Reuters is perched high atop a mountain of information. It’s what they do — information in the form of “actionable data” for lawyers, accountants, and financial professionals, but also information in the form of news. You could call them information traffickers.
That fundamental act of packaging and imparting information is what Reg Chua is concerned with. Since being hired as data editor for Thomson Reuters, Chua has set his sights on what Reuters’ journalists on the media side of the fence could learn from the more productizable business side — namely that people have a willingness, and appetite, for new forms of expressing and delivering information. As data editor, Chua wants Reuters to think bigger than simply using databases in reporting, or building expressive visualizations to partner with stories. What if the data itself, decoupled from the trappings of news-writing, were the story?
In the context of decoupling the data of news stories from the story and from the database to repackage and re-purpose news, Chua must deal with free web search engine algorithms like those used by Google. His post is particularly concerned with the crowdsourcing component in such algorithms because that is designed to produce personalized search results.
Chua wonders whether public policy should regulate the Unseen Algorithm in free web searching. I'm wondering whether public policy should regulate the Unseen Algorithm in very expensive online legal search. Just because both are proprietary information, does not mean regulators and users of free Web SEs and commercial legal SEs must be left in the dark. [JH]
Algorithm is the answer for this. But can you share how do you regulate such complicated topic? I'm interested.
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