IP Morning: A layered model of transparency for search algorithms


Dominant platforms, such as Google and Apple, have reportedly favored their own services over those of competitors in the rankings of search results. These self-favoring ranking practices steer consumer choice and limit competition between dominant platforms and other content providers. Consumers, content providers, and competition authorities therefore have an interest to know how search algorithms reach ranking decisions in order to challenge these self-favoring ranking practices. However, dominant platforms have an opposing interest to keep their search algorithms secret and protect the intellectual property (IP) rights and trade secrets related to these algorithms. Building upon Frank Pasquale´s (2016) idea of “qualified transparency”, the article develops a framework which strikes a balance between 1) the interest of dominant platforms to protect the IP rights and trade secrets related to their search algorithms, and 2) the interest of other stakeholders to know how these algorithms reach ranking decisions