The Issue of Proxies and Choice Architectures. Why EU Law Matters for Recommender Systems

Paper by Mireille Hildebrandt: “Recommendations are meant to increase sales or ad revenue, as these are the first priority of those who pay for them. As recommender systems match their recommendations with inferred preferences, we should not be surprised if the algorithm optimizes for lucrative preferences and thus co-produces the preferences they mine. This relates to the well-known problems of feedback loops, filter bubbles, and echo chambers. In this article, I discuss the implications of the fact that computing systems necessarily work with proxies when inferring recommendations and raise a number of questions about whether recommender systems actually do what they are claimed to do, while also analysing the often-perverse economic incentive structures that have a major impact on relevant design decisions. Finally, I will explain how the choice architectures for data controllers and providers of AI systems as foreseen in the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the proposed EU Digital Services Act (DSA) and the proposed EU AI Act will help to break through various vicious circles, by constraining how people may be targeted (GDPR, DSA) and by requiring documented evidence of the robustness, resilience, reliability, and the responsible design and deployment of high-risk recommender systems (AI Act)…(More)”.