The New Digital Divide

Vanessa Clark's picture
Vanessa Clark

I came across this article that proposes a new digital divide: understanding and opting out of algorithmic influence. Many (most?) of the digital services people use now collect data of some sort, and often that data is used in algorithms that decide what information the service delivers to you, whether in the form of content, advertising, or suggestions. The divide lies in the understanding of how this data is collected and used, how it influences our lives, and how to opt out. Over the past 10-15 years, I've noticed that as digital services become more common, we often need to rely on even more digital services to manage the ones we have (E.g., using Google's cloud services to store your music, photos, and other files? Google now has an app to let you know how much data you're using across these different services.). The more that digital services are integrated into our lives, the more likely it becomes that we are being influenced by algorithms. If we don't understand the influence that algorithms have over the minor decisions we make in our day to day lives, the greater the influence they are likely to have, especially when we don't understand how to opt out or when opting out comes at a premium.