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A Tale of Four Algorithms

Algorithms don’t just power search results and news feeds, shaping our experience of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Spotify, and Tinder. Algorithms are widely—and largely invisibly—integrated into American political life, policymaking, and program administration.

Algorithms can terminate your Medicaid benefits, exclude you from air travel, purge you from voter rolls, or predict if you are likely to commit a crime in the future. They make decisions about who has access to public services, who undergoes extra scrutiny, and where we target scarce resources.

But are all algorithms created equal? Does the kind of algorithm used by government agencies have anything to do with who it is aimed at?