Algorithmic Discrimination: Big Data Analytics and the Future of the Internet

  • Jenifer WinterEmail author
Part of the Public Administration and Information Technology book series (PAIT, volume 17)


This chapter discusses several technical changes related to the Internet—the social semantic web and linked data, the instrumentation of natural and social processes, big data and graphing analytics, and cloud-based facial recognition—and focuses on several threats resulting from these developments. As billions, or trillions, of everyday objects, including the human body itself, are equipped with sensors, a variety of new types of data will be collected, aggregated, and linked to other personally identifiable records. These changes transgress personal privacy boundaries and lead to unjust algorithmic discrimination and loss of anonymity, resulting in undemocratic shifts in power. Three alternative scenarios for the future Internet are presented as contrasting possibilities to explore key uncertainties about the future for the year 2045. Because the framework for the future Internet is already developed and numerous aspects of it are already appearing around us, it is essential that we critically examine these systems and associated narratives in order to stimulate meaningful discussion and design policies and systems that respect citizen concerns. By examining and testing alternative visions of the future Internet, we can more closely align its development with ethical, human-centered insight.


Data and discrimination Internet of Things Privacy Anonymity Big data Algorithmic discrimination 


  1. Ackerman D (2013) Xbox One and PlayStation 4: Facial recognition shootout. Scholar
  2. Acquisti A, GrossR, Stutzman F (2011) Faces of Facebook: Privacy in the age of augmented reality. Black Hat 2011.
  3. Agrawal S, Lal Das M (2011) Internet of things—a paradigm shift of future internet applications. Paper presented at the second international conference on current trends in technology (NUiCONE 2011), AhmedabadGoogle Scholar
  4. Angwin J, Stecklow S (2010) ‘Scrapers’ dig deep for data on Web. The Wall Street Journal Scholar
  5. Ashton K (2009) That ‘Internet of Things’ thing. RFID Journal. Retrieved from Scholar
  6. Atzori L, Iera A, Morabito G (2010) The internet of things: a survey. Comput Networks 54:2787–2805CrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  7. Balboni P (2012) EU Commission proposal for a general data protection. Proceedings of the 2nd Annual International Congress of u-World. Dalian, ChinaGoogle Scholar
  8. Barbaro M, Zeller T (2006) A face is exposed for AOL searcher no. 4417749. Scholar
  9. Barocas S, Selbst AD (2015) Big data’s disparate impact. California Law Rev 104, Retrieved from
  10. Benkler Y (2006) The wealth of networks: how social production transforms markets and freedom. Yale University Press, New Haven, CTGoogle Scholar
  11. Berners-Lee T (2000) Weaving the web: the past, present and future of the World Wide Web by its inventor. Texere, LondonGoogle Scholar
  12. boyd d (2011)‘Real names’ policies are an abuse of power. Apophenia. Scholar
  13. boyd d, Hargittai E (2010) Facebook privacy settings: who cares? First Monday, 15(2) Scholar
  14. Breslin J, Passant A, Decker S (2009) The social semantic web. Springer, HeidelbergCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Castells M (2000) Materials for an exploratory theory of the Network Society. Br J Sociol 51(1):5–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Castells M (2009) Communication power. Oxford University Press, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  17. CERP-IoT (2010) European Union, Cluster of European Research Projects on the Internet of Things. Vision and challenges for realising the Internet of Things. Brussels: European Commission—Information Society and MediaGoogle Scholar
  18. Cisco (2014) The Zettabyte era: trends and analysis. Cisco White Paper. San Jose, CA: Cisco Systems.
  19. Custers B (2013) Data dilemmas in the information society: Introduction and overview. In: Custers B, Calders T, Schermer B, Zarsky T (eds) Discrimination and privacy in the information society: data mining and profiling in large databases. Springer, New York, NY, pp 3–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dator J (2009) Alternative futures at the Manoa School. J Futures Studies 14(2):1–18Google Scholar
  21. Dourish P, Bell G (2011) Divining a digital future: mess and mythology in ubiquitous computing. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MACrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. European Commission, Information Society and Media (2008) Internet of things in 2020: Roadmap for the future. European Technology platform on smart systems integration. Version 1.1Google Scholar
  23. Federal Bureau of Investigation (2014) FBI announces full operational capability of the next generation identification system.
  24. Gymrek M, McGuire AL, Golan D, Halperin E, Erlich Y (2013) Identifying personal genomes by surname inference. Science 339(6117):321–324CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Habermas J (1991) The structural transformation of the public sphere: an inquiry into a category of Bourgeois society. MIT Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  26. Haggerty KD, Ericson RV (2006) The new politics of surveillance and visibility. In: Haggerty KD, Ericson RV (eds) The new politics of surveillance and visibility. University of Toronto Press, Toronto, ON, pp 3–25Google Scholar
  27. Heath T, Bizer C (2011) Linked data: Evolving the Web into a global data space. Synthesis Lectures Semantic Web: Theory Technol 1(1):1–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Himanen P (2001) The hacker ethic: a radical approach to the philosophy of business. Random House, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  29. Hindman M (2009) The myth of digital democracy. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
  30. Hvistendahl M (2012) China pushes the ‘Internet of Things.’. Science 336(6086):1223–1223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ishigaki Y, Matsumoto Y, Ichimiya R, Tanaka K (2013) Development of mobile radiation monitoring system utilizing smartphone and its field tests in Fukushima. IEEE Sensors J 13(10):3520–3526CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jaimes A (2010) Data mining for user modeling and personalization in ubiquitous spaces. In: Nakashima H, Aghajan H, Augusto JC (eds) Handbook of ambient intelligence and smart environments. Springer, London, pp 1015–1038CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Johnson B (2010) Privacy no longer a social norm, says Facebook founder.
  34. Keller J (2011) Cloud-powered facial recognition is terrifying. The Atlantic monthly. technology/archive/2011/09/cloud-powered-facial-recognition-is-terrifying/245867/
  35. Khan R, Khan S. Zaheer R, Khan S (2012) Future internet: the internet of things architecture, possible applications and key challenges. Tenth International Conference on Frontiers of Information Technology 257–260 doi:  10.1109/FIT.2012.53
  36. Lyon D (2002) Surveillance as social sorting: Computer codes and mobile bodies. In: Lyon D (ed) Surveillance as social sorting: privacy, risk and automated discrimination. Routledge, London, UK, pp 14–30Google Scholar
  37. Manfredi N, Mir D, Lu S, Sanchez D (2014) Differentially private models of tollgate usage: The Milan tollgate data set. IEEE International Conference on Big Data 46–48Google Scholar
  38. Nissenbaum H (2010) Privacy in context: technology, policy, and the integrity of social life. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CAGoogle Scholar
  39. O’Reilly T, Battelle J (2009) Web squared: Web 2.0 five years on. White paper presented at the Web 2.0 Summit, San Francisco, CA: O’Reilly. Scholar
  40. PEN American Center (2013) Chilling effects: NSA surveillance drives U.S. writers to self-censor. PEN American Center, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  41. Schwartz PM, Solove D (2011) The PII problem: privacy and a new concept of personally identifiable information. New York University Law Rev 86:1814–1894Google Scholar
  42. Turow J (2006) Cracking the consumer code: Advertisers, anxiety and surveillance in the digital age. In: Haggerty KD, Ericson RV (eds) The new politics of surveillance and visibility. University of Toronto Press, Toronto, ON, pp 279–307Google Scholar
  43. Turow J (2012) The daily you: How the new advertising industry is defining your identity and worth. Yale University Press, New Haven, CTGoogle Scholar
  44. Uckelmann D, Harrison M (2010) Integrated billing mechanisms in the internet of things to support information sharing and enable new business opportunities. Int J RF Technol: Res Appl 2(2):73–90Google Scholar
  45. Uckelmann D, Harrison M, Michahelles F (2010) An architectural approach towards the future Internet of Things. In: Uckelmann D et al (eds) Architecting the internet of things. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, Berlin, pp 1–24Google Scholar
  46. Upturn (2014) Civil rights, big data, and our algorithmic future.
  47. Vermesan O, Friess P, Guillemin P, Gusmeroli S, Sundmaeker H, Bassi A, Jubert IS, Mazura M, Harrison M, Eisenhauer M, Doody P (2011) Internet of Things strategic research roadmap. In: Vermesan O, Freiss P (eds) Global technological and societal trends from smart environments and spaces to green ICT. River Publishers, Aalborg, pp 9–52Google Scholar
  48. Wadhwa T (2012) What do Jell-O, Kraft, and Adidas have in common? They all want to know yourface. 2012/08/08/ billboards-and-tvs-detect-your-face-and-juice-up-ads-tailored-just-for-you/Google Scholar
  49. Winseck D (2003) Netscapes of power: convergence, network design, walled gardens, and other strategies of control in the information age. In: Lyon D (ed) Surveillance as social sorting: privacy, risk and digital discrimination. Routledge, New York, NY, pp 176–198Google Scholar
  50. Winter JS (2014) Surveillance in ubiquitous network societies: normative conflicts related to the consumer in-store supermarket experience in the context of the internet of things. Ethics Inf Technol 16(1):27–41. doi: 10.1007/s10676-013-9332-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Winter JS (2015) Privacy challenges for the Internet of Things. In: Khosrow-Pour M (ed) Encyclopedia of information science and technology, 3rd edn. IGI Global, Hershey, PA, pp 4373–4383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Zittrain J (2008) The future of the internet—and how to stop it. Yale University Press, New Haven, CTGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Hawai‘i at MānoaHonoluluUSA

Personalised recommendations