Disruption and Deception in Crowdsourcing

Disruption and Deception in Crowdsourcing

Agnieszka Onuchowska, Gert-Jan de Vreede
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/IJeC.2017100102
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While crowdsourcing has become increasingly popular among organizations, it also has become increasingly susceptible to unethical and malicious activities. This article discusses recent examples of disruptive and deceptive efforts on crowdsourcing sites, which impacted the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the crowdsourcing efforts' service, stakeholders, and data. From these examples, the authors derive an organizing framework of risk types associated with disruption and deception in crowdsourcing based on commonalities among incidents. The framework includes prank activities, the intentional placement of false information, hacking attempts, DDoS attacks, botnet attacks, privacy violation attempts, and data breaches. Finally, the authors discuss example controls that can assist in identifying and mitigating disruption and deception risks in crowdsourcing.
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Organizations can use crowdsourcing to take “a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of an open call” (Howe, 2006). Crowdsourcing has emerged as a viable alternative business model that focuses on problem solving and production provided by the distributed network of individuals (Brabham, 2010). It potentially has many benefits (Howe, 2016; Bonabeau, 2009; Cox, 2011; Bommert, 2010; Xiao & Carroll, 2015), it can be more cost-effective than having traditional employees perform certain tasks. It also supports knowledge sharing, makes knowledge more accessible and more useful to the crowd. It enables organizations to get access to a wide and varied collection of opinions and ideas, which can reduce bias in decision-making. It allows organizations and governments to directly engage with customers and citizen. Although crowdsourcing is still evolving as an organizational and societal phenomenon, its potential demonstrated is by data from the crowdsourcing market: 15 major crowd service providers almost tripled their revenues from US$140.80Min 2009 to US$375.70M in 2011 and the global enterprise crowdsourcing market growth rate reported 75% growth in 2011 compared to 53% in 2010 (Lionbridge, 2013).

Yet, several challenges threaten the usefulness of crowdsourcing as a reliable organizational problem-solving approach. For example, there are challenges concerning the ownership of crowdsourced products or the perceived lack of quality standards related to crowdsourced goods or services (Lasecki, Teevan & Ece, 2014) (Floren, 2012). Moreover, recently crowdsourcing sites have emerged with the intention of causing harm online. A rapid increase in malicious crowdsourcing service sites (also known as crowdturfing sites) has been observed in countries like China, the US, and India (Wang et al., 2012). Such sites recruit individuals that for a small payment post false negative restaurant reviews, write biased political comments, or post false advertising (Wang et al., 2013). There are also examples of legitimate initiatives that have been attacked by individuals seeking to achieve profits from exploiting the crowd-sourcing ventures: In 2016 users posted false reports of blocked road traffic in their neighborhoods on a crowdsourced app Waze to deflect some of the traffic flow from the places where their lived (Hendrix, 2012).

As crowdsourcing is increasingly becoming one of the ways in which organizations execute projects and support decision-making, disruptive and deceptive use of and responses to crowdsourcing initiatives need to be better understood and mitigated. It is unclear what harm might be caused to individuals and organizations by potential deception in crowdsourcing. For example, scholars are also unsure how disruptive the effects of crowdsourcing pranks and deceptions are on organizations. It is also unclear what are the physical or emotional effects of deceptive or violated crowdsourcing efforts on its contributors or beneficiaries.

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