Google algorithm inadvertently takes down ring of Chinese car thieves
Share Now on:
Machines are becoming alarmingly intelligent, smart enough to root out crime.
A group of Google engineers tasked with looking out for online fraud and ad spam noticed something strange recently: photos of cars for sale in China kept getting flagged — not by the humans, but by a search engine algorithm.
Scammers were posting images of cars they didn’t own, breaking into them and selling them for money. So, how did Google detect the con?
The algorithm saw a pattern of quick buys from new accounts, tied together with larger and more subtle patterns, and deduced something was up. It’s not an airtight system: more than a few valid accounts have had their orders delayed while the team checked them out. But in this case, it was able to reach across continents to suss out a scheme its engineers had never even imagined. Cultural differences could fool the humans, but they couldn’t fool the machine.
Click on the audio player above to hear more.
As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.
Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.
Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.