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UK competition watchdog hints at algorithm regulation

Written by Wed 20 Jan 2021

Algorithms used by private firms could harm consumers if misused, the Competition and Markets Authority has warned

Algorithms used to serve people suggested content, services and other options online can reduce competition and potentially harm consumers, a UK watchdog has warned.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published new research it says shows issues with the use of algorithms and is calling for evidence on the subject.

The CMA argued that algorithms could be used not just to personalise services, but manipulated to reduce choice or artificially change a user’s perception and more understanding was needed on how private firms create and deploy such technology.

It said further research into the subject was vital because much of what people do online, such as consuming news, socialising and ordering goods and services, was underpinned by the use of algorithms powered by artificial intelligence.

Kate Brand, director of data science at the CMA, said: “Algorithms play an important role online but, if not used responsibly, can potentially do a tremendous amount of harm to consumers and businesses.

“Assessing this harm is the first step towards being able to ensure consumers are protected and complements our wider work in digital markets to promote greater competition and innovation online.

“We want to receive as much information as possible from stakeholders in academia, the competition community, firms, civil society and third sector organisations in order to understand where the harm is occurring and what the most effective regulatory approach is to protect consumers in the future.”

The CMA said the research and feedback would be used to inform the work of the new Digital Markets Unit (DMU) and the new pro-competition regulations it will oversee.

The DMU is expected to begin work in April and will attempt to give people more choice and control over their data, as well as ensuring businesses are fairly treated.

Written by Wed 20 Jan 2021


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