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Brief Published: 26 Feb 2020

Data-Driven Investigative News Site The Markup Launches

Extra
The Markup

Investigative news website The Markup is examining the ways in which technology is impacting our lives. In keeping with trends we tracked in Human Tech, the nonprofit promises to be rigorous with reader privacy, collecting as little data about site visitors as possible. Can it succeed in the age of algorithm anxiety?

The ethics of algorithms is something we explored in Augmented Life, part of our Human Tech Macro Trend. It's becoming an increasingly vital issue, as ever more media, retail and marketing platforms aim to enhance engagement performance through algorithmic personalisation and artificial intelligence (AI) tools.

The Markup puts these issues front and centre. The New York-based publisher launched yesterday with investigations into algorithmic manipulation, including one analysing US car insurer AllState. "There needs to be a watchdog for algorithms," The Markup's founder Julia Angwin told The New York Times. "The government is not currently equipped with the technical expertise, time or money to do this, nor are there regulations requiring it."

As the likes of Facebook come under continuing scrutiny for the way in which they track user behaviour, concerns over online privacy remain paramount for consumers: 97% of US consumers are concerned about protecting their data (Tealium, 2019). The Markup aims to be as privacy-aware as possible – even the newsletter platform it uses has had to meet these standards.

The Markup is an example of the shift away from intrusive, non-transparent platforms to ones where consumers feel more in control – like Brooklyn-based start-up Canopy, which launched its antidote to 'toxic news' Tonic last year, and upcoming social network Bonfire (see State of Media: 2020 Update for more). We expect this to be a trend that will only gain momentum over the next 12 months.

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