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Story Publication logo November 1, 2023

Artificial Intelligence as a Threat? (German)


People walk down the street. Digital squares are placed over the face of each person, presumably to identify individual facial features.

An increasing number of policymakers are turning to artificial intelligence to fight and prevent...

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Multiple Authors

Image by Sarah Pabst.

An English summary of this report is below. The original audio, broadcast in German on Deutschlandfunk, follows.

German national radio dedicated 25 minutes of programming to the Pulitzer Fellows Karen Naundorf and Sarah Pabst's investigation, "Is facial recognition with AI an advance in security—or a danger?"

In their radio feature, the authors take their listeners to the Argentine capital Buenos Aires. They hear the arguments of both advocates and opponents of the technology, including two young men who were detained by the police due to database errors; one was even jailed for six days. They also hear from the security minister who is convinced that facial recognition is needed for the security of citizens, from a member of parliament who accuses him of not receiving any information about the system, and from data protectionists who fear consequences for the future of democracy.

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The judge who uncovered the scandal reports alarming things: For one, IT experts found more than 15,000 data profiles of people in the facial recognition system for whom there was no warrant. Furthermore, there were anonymous user profiles—so it is unclear who was using the facial recognition system and when. In addition, the court's experts found deletions of data records, including the associated log files: It will therefore never be possible to find out who these people are that the city of Buenos Aires was looking for with the help of facial recognition. Additionally, there is a suspicion that the city may have been trying to collect "Big Data."

The radio feature was first broadcast on April 25, 2023.

An updated version will be broadcast on October 30, due to the big interest of the audience. 

Lawmakers in European countries are looking with interest to other regions of the world: How is AI regulated elsewhere? Does it work? The case of Buenos Aires clearly shows that good regulations are not enough; controls are needed.





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