Mysterious and manipulative black boxes: A qualitative analysis of perceptions on recommender systems

Authors

  • Jukka Ruohonen University of Turku

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v29i6.13357

Keywords:

recommender systems, public opinion, algorithms, privacy, regulation, EU, GDPR, DSA

Abstract

Recommender systems are used to provide relevant suggestions on various matters. Although these systems are a classical research topic, knowledge is still limited regarding the public opinion about these systems. Public opinion is also important because the systems are known to cause various problems. To this end, this paper presents a qualitative analysis of the perceptions of ordinary citizens, civil society groups, businesses, and others on recommender systems in Europe. The dataset examined is based on the answers submitted to a consultation about the Digital Services Act (DSA) recently enacted in the European Union (EU). Therefore, not only does the paper contribute to the pressing question about regulating new technologies and online platforms, but it also reveals insights about the policy-making of the DSA. According to the qualitative results, Europeans have generally negative opinions about recommender systems and the quality of their recommendations. The systems are widely seen to violate privacy and other fundamental rights. According to many Europeans, these also cause various societal problems, including even threats to democracy.  Furthermore, existing regulations in the EU are commonly seen to have failed due to a lack of proper enforcement. Numerous suggestions were made by the respondents to the consultation for improving the situation, but only a few of these ended up to the DSA.

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Published

2024-06-08

How to Cite

Ruohonen, J. (2024). Mysterious and manipulative black boxes: A qualitative analysis of perceptions on recommender systems. First Monday, 29(6). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v29i6.13357