Alibaba and ByteDance, the companies which own Alibaba and TikTok respectively have shared the details of their prized algorithms with Beijing for the first time ever, according to a report from Bloomberg.
The Cyberspace Administration of China published a list on Friday containing 30 algorithms used by firms including Tencent (a technology and entertainment conglomerate), which shows how these firms gather user data, serve up content and personalise recommendations, according to the Bloomberg report. However, what is not clear is how much of their proprietary software have firms like Alibaba, ByteDance and Tencent given to the CAC to sift through.
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In March this year, China brought in new regulations that require tech companies to disclose the tools they are using, both in an effort to address complaints about data abuse, but also to ensure a tighter leash to prevent internet companies from running amok in the eastern nation. These algorithms, like the ones that decide which video a user on TikTok watches next, are the lifeblood of tech companies and are critical in retaining users and growing a userbase.
For lawmakers in the United States, getting their hands on such algorithms would likely put them in a better position to go after tech companies that have long managed to keep theirs secret by arguing that they are trade secrets.
Just last week, the Federal Trade Commission issued a notice on its website inviting members of the public to suggest ways to regulate how Big Tech collects their data. The US Congress has long been looking for a way to rein in the Silicon Valley companies and has pushed legislation, albeit slowly. Most recently,
the American Data Privacy and Protection Act cleared the House floor but is likely to face an uphill battle in the Senate.