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While every aspect of modern-day life is being regulated, monitored, directed and supervised by algorithms, who regulates the algorithms? While there are endless regulatory agencies in the world and the governments want to have a finger in every pie, still algorithms go totally unregulated. For the large part of the world, the results of these algorithms are the services provided by IT and other companies. That the services are mercenary level commercial still remains unknown to most of the people. Even if they know or have heard of it, they have absolutely no inkling how the algorithm enabled world functions.

From Facebook to Googles to any company whatsoever which claims of giving us a better user experience, completely enabled by algorithms, at the cost of our data and data ownership and with absolutely no disclosure of the mechanism involved in the process. There is complete dissonance in the understanding of what business interests are being derived at the cost of user and what the government needs to protect. If the basic problem statement is unknown, how can it be sorted out. The need for any democratic country to be in of information / data in its jurisdiction in the interest of the citizens and also its usage has become critical to its existence today.

The algorithm decides the meaning / intelligence which is derived out the data and what usage it is being put to and possibly it can be put. This knowledge is a necessity of the state. But so far, however much the countries have tried they have not been to lay their hands on it. What they would understand and derive out of it is another story. How will they regulate and with what nature of tech expertise, we would need for the purpose, we will leave it for some other day. The beginning has been made. One headline proclaims that Chinese internet giants hand algorithm data to government.

Companies including Alibaba, Tiktok owned by ByteDance and Tencent have shared details of their algorithms with China’s regulators for the first time. Algorithms also decide what the user sees, and is the propellent of social media as well. These are closely guarded by the companies. This news is pathbreaking for the fact that in the US, Meta and Alphabet have successfully argued that they are trade secrets amid growing clamour for more disclosure. Going a step further, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has published a list with the descriptions of 30 algorithms. Is this the road ahead for the crash commercial IT world?

Sanjay Sahay

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