Promises and Pitfalls of Algorithm Use by State Authorities

Maryam Amir Haeri, Kathrin Hartmann, Jürgen Sirsch, Georg Wenzelburger*, Katharina A. Zweig

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Algorithmic systems are increasingly used by state agencies to inform decisions about humans. They produce scores on risks of recidivism in criminal justice, indicate the probability for a job seeker to find a job in the labor market, or calculate whether an applicant should get access to a certain university program. In this contribution, we take an interdisciplinary perspective, provide a bird’s eye view of the different key decisions that are to be taken when state actors decide to use an algorithmic system, and illustrate these decisions with empirical examples from case studies. Building on these insights, we discuss the main pitfalls and promises of the use of algorithmic system by the state and focus on four levels: The most basic question whether an algorithmic system should be used at all, the regulation and governance of the system, issues of algorithm design, and, finally, questions related to the implementation of the system on the ground and the human–machine-interaction that comes with it. Based on our assessment of the advantages and challenges that arise at each of these levels, we propose a set of crucial questions to be asked when such intricate matters are addressed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number33
JournalPhilosophy and Technology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • Accountability
  • Algorithmic governance
  • Ethics
  • Human–machine interaction
  • Regulation of AI


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