Business of trust – Sara Green Brodersen

Algoritmes are being used on a large scale to define and predict the behavior of citizens. Based on these predictions, decisions are taken that may have far and irreversible consequences. Sara Green Brodersen, CEO and co-founder of Deemly, elaborates on how digital reputation can be used as a tool to build and gain trust in the algoritmic society. 

As the CEO and Co-Founder of deemly – a startup that allows users to leverage their online reputation across sharing economy platforms – I have a vested interest in understanding the function of reputation in modern society. In sharing economy vernacular “reputation” generally refers to an individual’s trustworthiness in a peer-to-peer marketplace. In the past decade, the power to leverage reputation has shifted from brands to individuals as new technologies enable sharing platform users to replace brand-name products and services. The importance of individual reputation isn’t a new concept, in fact, it’s the oldest model for a functioning economy. 

“The power to leverage reputation has shifted from brands to individuals” 

For thousands of years prior to the Industrial Revolution, people lived in small towns and villages for their entire lives due to technological, infrastructure, and economic limitations. A person’s livelihood depended on their ability to manage a successful business or maintain employment. People relied on other members of their community as sources of business and employment, and thus their own standing in the community was a key factor in determining their financial and professional success. 

What challenges exist for reputation today? 

An individual’s reputation directly correlates with their ability to participate in a given peer-to-peer marketplace, and so platforms must create fair rating systems that weed out false or inflated reviews. Innocent miscommunications can lead to a bad transaction and terrible review for an otherwise trustworthy person, which means platforms need to take care that a single review does not irreparably damage a person’s reputation. However, platforms must also consider user safety their top priority, which means bad reviews have to be appropriately factored into a person’s reputation. This is a difficult line to walk, and sharing economy thought leaders and reputation entrepreneurs like myself are constantly debating these questions to find the best solutions. 

“Platforms must also consider user safety their top priority” 

Another huge issue is reputation fragmentation, referring to a problem that results from the self-contained nature of ratings and reviews on a given sharing platform. Since a person’s ratings are contained within a single platform, new users struggle to compete with more established users who already have plenty of reviews. Similarly, new platforms struggle to grow their user base as potential users might not want to engage in transactions with strangers who have no viewable reviews. 

Credits: Anh Nguyen

A possible solution 

I believe the continued growth of the sharing economy hinges on the ability to overcome reputation barriers between platforms. There are actually a few ways this can happen. Blockchain-based, peer-to-peer marketplaces might replace single-purpose sharing platforms. This would enable users to engage in any desired transaction in a single, secure setting. 

Another likely solution would be the proliferation of cross-platform, reputation services that allow users to leverage their reputation from one platform to another. Widespread use of such services would give new platforms and new users a fighting chance for success. 

No matter how the sharing economy develops in coming years, individual reputation will remain a key component to the success of any peer-to-peer marketplace. 

Read more?

  • Sara Green Brodensen is our guest during the live talkshow Stadsleven ‘Discrimineren met data’ on Wednesday 31 of May, 20:00 – 22:00 in the Balie in Amsterdam. You can buy your ticket here
  • Read more blogs in our dossier ‘Discrimineren met data”. Perhaps you are also interested in Big Data: wat weet de stad van mij?. How our interaction with each other is changing due to digital technology you can read in De digitale ander