Almost everything that happens across the internet today is with the help of some algorithm. Be it the search results you see when you search for something, the recommended videos you see in YouTube or even the way your social media feed gets bolstered with posts which are of people you might not even know, but somewhat related to your “TASTE” which the algorithms decide on the basis of your activity online(through data points).
This practice, you may say, is good for you as you get more options and an opportunity to try out new things, but it also ends up showing you those posts which more people “liked” or “commented” or even have hashtags related to your taste. This has drawn a lot of criticisms these days as it has led to a lot of conspiracy theories to spread online and not to mention violence – one major instance being the riot at the Capitol Hill recently.
There are many instances where these algorithms are particularly misused. One such being Personalized Pricing. It basically refers to the practice of selling the same item to different groups of customers at different prices. The AI systems may use the data it harvests from the users to predict how much he/she may pay on the basis of his/her taste and behavior apart from their financial capability.
To tackle such problems, the UK Competition watchdog, Competition and Markets Authority(CMA) has asked academics and industry to submit evidence about the potential misdeeds caused by such algorithms and is launching a program called “Analyzing Algorithms” to identify violation of customer rights and possibly prevent the extent of damage caused in such instances.
According to the CMA, some companies also target buyers at a calculated time when they are more likely to give a positive review, which generates less useful information for consumers generally. Ineffective algorithms targeting fake reviews can equally hype some products or brands, misleading future buyers. With three-quarters of people reporting that they are influenced by reviews when they shop online, “the failure to detect these reviews and remove them can lead to consumers purchasing products or services that they do not want,” said the CMA.
A major sticking point that was identified by the competition watchdog is that of rankings. There is still little understanding of the algorithms that determine what comes out, and in which order, when a consumer types in a search query. What seems certain, however, is that the list of options that is automatically generated is not always created with the buyer’s best interest in mind.zdnet