Internet and privacy: the French are increasingly aware of algorithmic biases


The Internet and its happy and dangerous potentialities raise questions. A recent study * on the subject of the French and digital freedom shows that, unsurprisingly, they are increasingly concerned about respecting their privacy on the web. More surprisingly, they are also more aware of “algorithmic biases”.

The algorithmic bubble, what is it?

The term algorithmic bubble refers to the phenomenon of selecting search results based on the user’s usual choices. As a consequence of the hyper profiling of users, the algorithmic bubble is only the result of the strategies of search engines and social networks based on tracking …

How is this dangerous? Algorithmic confinement is an insidious and pernicious threat to our critical thinking and our free will. Unsuspectedly, the results displayed actually correspond to what we want to see… or believe. It is therefore not only a witness to the non-neutrality of the Internet, but also and above all a real danger for our minds exposed to formatting by algorithms.

Eli Parser, essayist behind the expression, demonstrated with a simple example the algorithmic bias of a famous American search engine. Typing BP into the search engine, for a politically right-targeted person, the first search result referred to how to invest in British Petroleum, while for a left-wing person it displayed the latest oil spill caused by the society…

A very worrying practical demonstration for our free will… and which perfectly illustrates algorithmic bias.

French people aware of algorithmic biases

If, without great surprise, the French are mostly suspicious of the Internet regarding respect for privacy, some of them are on the other hand among the many opportunities, it is true, offered by the Internet. and the very real threats that challenge our ideals in terms of protecting our privacy …

Knowledge of algorithmic confinement is improving, since half of French people consider that the results posted on the Internet are not neutral … However, 60% of French people questioned are still convinced of the exhaustiveness of the information found on the internet.

Finally, 52% of French people say they do not have the means to fight against “confinement by algorithms” they are only 40% to estimate to have the means (and only 12% to be “completely” convinced of it) .

Finally, several factors play a role in the confidence that our fellow citizens have in the Internet: On the one hand, young people are more likely to consider the Internet as an opportunity in terms of respect for privacy. On the other hand, the French with a diploma above Bac + 2 are more aware of the lack of neutrality of internet research, and to feel powerless in the face of algorithmic confinement …

Faced with this observation and the polarization of opinion concerning algorithmic confinement, much remains to be done to raise public awareness of filter bubbles and the threats they represent, while promoting the alternatives that exist, in Europe and in France.

The French are sending digital players a clear message: “Give us the keys to a better web!” “

Methodology of the study

This survey was carried out in March 2021 with a sample of 1,004 people, representative of the French population aged 18 and over. The representativeness of the sample was ensured thanks to the quota method applied to the following variables: sex, age, occupation of the reference person of the household and of the person questioned, region and category of agglomeration.