Analyzing 'Near Me' Services: Potential for Exposure Bias in Location-based Retrieval

14 Nov 2020  ·  Ashmi Banerjee, Gourab K Patro, Linus W. Dietz, Abhijnan Chakraborty ·

The proliferation of smartphones has led to the increased popularity of location-based search and recommendation systems. Online platforms like Google and Yelp allow location-based search in the form of nearby feature to query for hotels or restaurants in the vicinity... Moreover, hotel booking platforms like Booking[dot]com, Expedia, or Trivago allow travelers searching for accommodations using either their desired location as a search query or near a particular landmark. Since the popularity of different locations in a city varies, certain locations may get more queries than other locations. Thus, the exposure received by different establishments at these locations may be very different from their intrinsic quality as captured in their ratings. Today, many small businesses (shops, hotels, or restaurants) rely on such online platforms for attracting customers. Thus, receiving less exposure than that is expected can be unfavorable for businesses. It could have a negative impact on their revenue and potentially lead to economic starvation or even shutdown. By gathering and analyzing data from three popular platforms, we observe that many top-rated hotels and restaurants get less exposure vis-a-vis their quality, which could be detrimental for them. Following a meritocratic notion, we define and quantify such exposure disparity due to location-based searches on these platforms. We attribute this exposure disparity mainly to two kinds of biases -- Popularity Bias and Position Bias. Our experimental evaluation on multiple datasets reveals that although the platforms are doing well in delivering distance-based results, exposure disparity exists for individual businesses and needs to be reduced for business sustainability. read more

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