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22 January 2021
China tech giants criticised over use of AI
Artificial Intelligence (AI)Data protection & privacyGreater China
Chinese tech giants are coming under pressure over their use of algorithms and artificial intelligence, which campaigners say are placing consumers at a disadvantage.
As reported by Caixin, the China Consumers Association (CAA) produced a 14-point document earlier this month, outlining how data-driven algorithms allegedly restrict the rights of consumers in their dealings with large tech firms.
This has come amid a broader national conversation about how tech giants use technology to control information and leverage access to personal data for commercial gain.
Highlights of the CAA report
The CAA claims that too often complex sales promotions obscure the true cost of a product and that negative reviews can get hidden, while targeted search results create an ‘information asymmetry’ that leaves consumers ‘bullied’ by data-based algorithms.
Also of concern to the CAA is the practice of ‘algorithmic price discrimination’, where the personal data of an online shopper is used to calculate different prices for different individuals based on what they might be willing to pay.
The CAA wants a special organisation to be established to regulate the ethics of algorithms and to investigate “unfair” practices that involve them.
It also calls for tech giants to be forced to turn over their proprietary algorithms to regulators in the case of disputes.
“At the moment I don’t think there’s a clear threshold on what’s healthy and what’s not – anything goes. What’s needed is to define what’s healthy, what’s acceptable, and then enforcement” – Nicolas Bahmanyar, data privacy consultant at Leaf law firm.