Data, Algorithms, and Their Impact

Updated: Oct 25

Data and algorithms have become incredibly common in our daily lives and they certainly will not be going away. Because of this, it’s important to gain an understanding of what algorithms are and their impacts. By definition, an algorithm is a mathematical set of rules specifying how a group behaves. Internet algorithms are a wide array of algorithms created by tech companies to order, rank, and present information given on the internet. The Digital Marketing Institute states that there have been roughly 4.57 billion daily Internet users in 2020 and we can only expect this number to increase. Data algorithms and technology truly combined when popular social media sites developed.

Algorithms took the form as we know them now after the creation of blogs and social media sites such as Myspace, LinkedIn, Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook, followed by more such as Spotify, Pinterest, and Tumblr. These sites have all been created with different uses and goals in mind, but one thing they have in common is their use of algorithms. Algorithms are how these sites create our feeds which guide us towards our interests. They’ve only become more personalized through technological advances in social media.

So, why are data algorithms used? They’re used mainly for efficiency and solving tasks and problems. Like previously mentioned, we can find them being used everywhere. From turning on our computers, generating social media feeds, dating apps, online searches, recommendations, advertisements, and so much more, algorithms are the catalyst behind all these. What they do is follow a set of instructions or a “code” to provide us with exactly what we need efficiently.

With all technological advances and developments, there are pros and cons. In a way, data algorithms act as a manipulation. Data is collected and content is created specifically for you to view what they believe you would like to see. Ads are also a part of this manipulation; they are created to persuade people. Users may find this helpful, but also can be considered an invasion of privacy or annoying. With Social media evolving it has made it easier for people to not pay close attention to these manipulations, but it’s important to be aware of as a user. Algorithms can shape an individual’s decision without them knowing, and often value efficiency over correctness and fairness. However, they also are very efficient and find knowledge in much faster ways than ever before. Users are better targeted for delivery of news, service, and advertising. Algorithms have evolved along with the digital world to match human/user desires, and are becoming more powerful as technology continues to grow.

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