Damian wrote a blogpost in which he comments on the current debate on the role of algorithms. He argues that – while there are valid reasons to be concerned – critics who see algoritms as evil or scary per se, miss the point and hinder a constructive debate.
Het fascinerende spookbeeld: Hoe irrationele argumenten het debat over kunstmatige intelligentie bemoeilijken
On Tuesday, Damian gave a lecture “Big Data: Why social scientists should care” at the Amsterdam Research Initiative, discussing the role of Big Data in society as well as in research. He argued that social scientists on the one hand have to observe the role of so-called Big Data as a societal phenomenon, but on the other hand also can make use of these techniques to answer social-scientific research questions. Directly before, he had given a two-day workshop on the use of Python to answer social-scientific research questions at Radboud University Nijmegen.
Journalist Maurits Martijn wrote a piece on Cambridge Analytica, the online political microtargeting company. The company essentially applies behavioural targeting marketing techniques to political campaigns. Martijn questions whether Cambridge Analytica is really that powerful, and whether it really caused Trump to win the US elections. Both Claes de Vreese and Frederik Zuiderveen Borgesius are quoted in the piece.
The Court of Justice of the European Union decided an important case on 21 December 2016. In short, the Court prohibits mass metadata surveillance. The Court says that EU member states are not allowed to impose an obligation on telecommunications companies to store metadata of all telecom-users.
The Court says that mass metadata surveillance, even if it may help to catch criminals or terrorists, violates people’s privacy and data protection rights. The Court adds that metadata are just as sensitive as the content of communications. Metadata show, for instance, who you call and when. The Court says that such metadata are “no less sensitive, having regard to the right to privacy, than the actual content of communications.”
Frederik commented on the case for Dutch media:
The full judgment by the Court of Justice of the European Union is here: http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=186492&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=req&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=566657
For an analysis of metadata surveillance and human rights, see:
Frederik J. Zuiderveen Borgesius and Axel Arnbak, New Data Security Requirements and the Proceduralization of Mass Surveillance Law after the European Data Retention Case, Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2015-41. https://ssrn.com/abstract=2678860
This week, there were a lot of media appearences related to the discussion of the role of filter bubbles and fake news in electin campaigns. Damian is quoted in de Volkskrant interviewed for television broadcast EenVandaag (around minute 27.00). Sanne was interviewed the NOS. And we published a piece on Stuk rood vlees.
On 9 November Frederik Zuiderveen Borgesius participates in the Privacy Platform in Brussels (‘Automated profiling after the GDPR, more regulation needed?’), organized by Sophie in ‘t Veld. The event will address the topic of the potential risks of automated profiling, on whether the provisions on profiling in the General Data Protection Regulation will suffice, and on what can be expected of the revision of the ePrivacy Directive.
Chair: Ms Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP
This weekend, there was a lot of media attention on Filter Bubbles. On Friday, quality newspaper Trouw published a two-page story based on interviews with Judith, Damian, and Frederik. The piece reflected some outcomes of our research project, mainly that filter bubbles – at least in the Netherlands, at this point in time – are less of a problem than often assumed.
On Saturday, Damian was interviewed on Radio 1 (Argos) about the same topic, as well as about political microtargeting. You can listen to the fragment here.
Coincidentally, and not related to our project, also quality newspaper de Volkskrant published a large story on Filter Bubbles related to music. It discussed the relationship between the usage of Spotify and music taste, and also hinted at the need for diversity in a music recommendation algorithm, to prevent it from becoming ‘boring’.
Frederik is quoted in an article on online tracking, on the news site Apache from Belgium: “Dit gebeurt er met jouw data op de grootste Belgische websites”.