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Frank Pasquale on Big Data

We’ve heard a lot about ‘big data’ in the last few years, but who is connecting the dots about what firms are doing with this information? Law professor Frank Pasquale visits the RSA to argue that we all need to be able to know more and to set limits on how big data affects our lives.

Hidden algorithms can make or break reputations, decide the destiny of entrepreneurs, or even devastate an entire economy. Shrouded in secrecy and complexity, decisions at major Silicon Valley and Wall Street firms were long assumed to be neutral and technical. But leaks, whistleblowers, and legal disputes have shed new light on automated judgment. Self-serving and reckless behavior is surprisingly common, and easy to hide in code protected by legal and real secrecy. Even after billions of dollars of fines have been levied, underfunded regulators may have only scratched the surface of this troubling behavior. Is it true, for example, that there are no regulations governing how third-party data brokers and marketers assemble and distribute ‘microtargeting lists’?

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