China taps into tech algorithms

Some of China’s biggest tech companies, including ByteDance and Alibaba, have shared the inner workings of their algorithms with the Chinese government. 

Why it matters: Algorithms are at the core of every major tech company’s products and are more closely guarded than KFC’s eleven herbs and spices. Western governments have tried to get big social media companies to give up the same information—with absolutely no luck

Catch-up: In March, China laid down a set of unprecedented rules that put tight restrictions on how companies use algorithms and require increased transparency with the government.

  • Tech companies in China must now register their algorithms, create mechanisms to protect children and seniors, and allow users to opt out of algorithms altogether. 

What happened: Now, China’s internet watchdog has published a list of 30 algorithm descriptions from major companies to the public, detailing how each of them works.  

  • Non-public information companies must give up includes the algorithms’ security, the data collected (and its sensitivity), and the data sources used to train algorithms. 

Bottom line: Despite sweeping new tech regulations in the UK and the EU and general growing concern over the potential damages of algorithms, China is the only jurisdiction that has been successful in starting to pry open the secrets of Big Tech’s algorithms.