#Weblining as Practice, Not Theory

Today, Waldemar Ingdahl reviews The Black Box Society by Frank Pasquale who is a law professor at the University of Maryland. An important book by any standard. It adds to the voices of warning for the negative consequences of big data monitoring. We users may happily go about our everyday online business while turning a blind eye to how the data we generate is used. We may think that others, not ourselves, suffer consequences. We may even convince ourselves that it doesn’t matter that much if private data leaks to government organisations. But it is nothing short of sticking our heads in the sand.

Weblining, the online version of redlining, means certain services such as insurance are denied or made unaffordable to those with unfavorable data records. It is considered illegal discrimination in many jurisdictions, but is standard practice online. Last year, Netopia published the report Can We Make the Digital World Ethical by Peter Warren, which looked into weblining of house insurance in UK areas prone to floods. Recently, Venturebeat reported that Facebook has received an updated patent that lets banks use the social graph to screen loan applicants.

You and I may not face any consequences today. But what about your friend, neighbor or relative? Or what about you or me a year from now? Let’s make online a constructive force for change. Redlining did not belong offline, let’s not use it online. Read the book.