tribune. Algorithms are everywhere. From morning to night, these “series of instructions”, which are the basis of artificial intelligence, optimize journeys, guide school and professional journeys, promote romantic encounters, recommend books, films and songs.
Through these algorithms, platforms – Amazon, Facebook, Netflix and Spotify in mind – participate in the composition of our tastes, our ideas. Each click is a clue, each second spent on a page a signal. Their sum feeds increasingly complex models aimed at personalizing the content we consume. For the better – Spotify would broaden the musical horizon of those who use it – and sometimes for the worse – “Filter bubbles” and their consequences.
The basics of transparency
In return, users have little control over how algorithms work and feed them with content. Most often, recommendation systems remain opaque and there is little room for maneuver to modify them. It seems important to rebalance the relationship between users and algorithms.
A line of reflection often mentioned is that of transparency. Introduced in the law for a digital republic on public algorithms in 2016 and included in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enacted by the European Commission the same year, “algorithmic transparency” covers various realities.
A first approach is simply to inform that an algorithm is used; this is the basics of transparency. We can also make public the source code that governs the calculation (as was the case in 2018 for the Parcoursup guidance application); interesting opening approach but reserved for a limited number of experts.
The most satisfactory consumer option seems to be the explanation of the ” general operating logic [des algorithmes] “ (How to allow the man to keep the hand, CNIL, December 2017) for those who use it. In other words: to give users to understand not the complex mathematical implications but the main criteria which have an impact on their experience. To varying degrees, platforms are starting to put some of these precepts in place.