VISA, Google and racism

“We would like you to confirm a transaction made yesterday in San Fransisco.”   A few years back I used to get a lot of calls from my bank.   Customers that travelled as much as me and shopped a lot online were obviously an extreme rarity in Greece.   So I had hardly hit an airport shop or finished buying something on the web and my cell phone rang…

Their logic was algorythmic:  an individual buying a lot of stuff with a credit card in widely different parts of the world is likely to be a fraudster.  But imagine getting a call like this:   “Mr Chalkidis, we know you are an illiterate schmuck so are you sure you bought all those high brow books from Amazon today?”    It would be similar to the British banks that denied me a credit card when I landed to study in England because of my Greek decent.  (Too many Greeks before me had ran enormous bills and then skipped the country!)  

I fought (and won) the banks then, like the European Union lawyers can fight Google now.   Racism!   Forget complex tech talk about algorythms, focus on human rights.   Google cleverly has tried to make their search contextual.   Based on past searches and other customer data.   ie hazy enough to confuse provability.   So get several brand new computers in different locations and build carricatured profiles on them.   Log what they surf and what they fill in as a profile.   Then do a web search.   Any differences in search results and you can yell “racism!” “sexism!” “nationalism!” or any other “ism” you like.

It is easy mainly because this language of rights makes no sense really.   It is however extremely succesful in the court.   Especially if you manage to find a difference, no matter how trivial, between different races or ethnic groups; anything that affects an underpriviliged group.   If one personae has declared he or she is crippled in any way and they don’t get as many sports results for example.  

It may sound ridiculous but imagine actually been cripple and getting a telephone call like this:  “we notice three charges for fancy running shoes on your credit card this week.   Can you please confirm them?”

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