Senate Lawmakers Take Aim at Secret Search Engine Algorithms

Oct. 31, 2019, 6:28 PM

Search engine operators would have to make clear that they use algorithms based on data not expressly provided by users under a new bipartisan Senate bill.

The Filter Bubble Transparency Act takes aim at search engine operators that use opaque algorithms to determine the ranking of search results, based on data not given to a platform for such purposes.

The bill, which Senate GOP Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) is introducing Oct. 31, would make it illegal for search engine operators to use such algorithms unless they clearly notify users or provide them with a way to use an input-transparent algorithm. That kind of algorithm relies on data that is expressly provided to platforms for search purposes.

“For free markets to work as effectively and as efficiently as possible, consumers need as much information as possible, including a better understanding of how internet platforms use artificial intelligence and opaque algorithms to make inferences from the reams of personal data at their fingertips that can be used to affect behavior and influence outcomes,” Thune said in a Oct. 31 statement.

The Federal Trade Commission would be tasked with bringing unfair or deceptive trade practices enforcement actions against search engine operators that violate the measure.

Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) are co-sponsoring the legislation.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel R. Stoller in Washington at dstoller@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com

To read more articles log in. To learn more about a subscription click here.