Automated journalism: Artificial intelligence transforms data into stories


Narrative Science Inc., a company based in Chicago, has developed an artificial intelligence engine called Quill that “transforms data into stories that are indistinguishable from those authored by people”. This technology provides us a good opportunity to explore the complex relationship between privacy, data protection and freedom of expression, in the age of the Internet and of Big Data.

Furthermore, Narrative Science’s project raises questions on the relationship between human and the machine. Paradoxically, the use of a robot writer will not result in greater rationality, but will increase the tendency towards infotainment. More than ever before, the Internet has made the role of journalism a crucial one. Independence, the verification of sources and the search for truth, which are the foundation of journalism, are essential to make sense of the deluge of information we are now exposed to.

Protecting journalists’ right to freedom of speech, citizens’ right to receive quality information, and the right to privacy of readers and users of social networks requires that a distinction be made between journalism and other types of activities. For each of these, specific data processing activities are performed with distinct purposes. The paper will focus on defining these purposes and on identifying the impact their pursuit entails on fundamental rights. The data protection regulation currently in force at both European Union and Council of Europe levels will be examined to determine whether it sufficiently protects these rights. This research will finally lead us to consider how this regulation may be improved.



Automated journalism – Artificial Intelligence – Freedom of expression – Right to information – Right to receive information – Privacy – Data protection – articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights – Article 9, Directive 95/46/EC – journalistic purposes – article 9, 2° of Convention n° 108 of 28 January 1981 for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data – ECJ (Grand Chamber), Tietosuojavaltuutettu v. Satakunnan Markkinapörssi Oy, Satamedia, judgment of 16 December 2008


Oral presentation

The paper will be presentend at the 9th International Conference on Internet, Law & Politics (IDP 2013) under the title Big Data: Challenges & Opportunities, to be held in Barcelona on 25 and 26 June 2013.The Conference is organised by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Open University of Catalonia, UOC) and will focus this year on the legal and political issues involved in the so-called Big Data.


Author: Cédric Goblet

Title: Automated journalism: Artificial intelligence transforms data into stories – When data protection principles and privacy protect the right to express opinions freely and to receive accurate information

eBook Title: Big Data. Challenges & Opportunities. Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Internet, Law & Politics, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Barcelona, 25 and 26 June 2013

Coordinators: Cerrillo-i-Martínez, A., Peguera, M., Peña-López, I. & Vilasau Solana, M.


Copyright: 2013

Publisher: Barcelona, UOC-Huygens




1. Automated journalism: the project

2. Relationship between freedom of expression and privacy in the age of internet and big data

2.1. Freedom of expression

2.2.Privacy and data protection

2.3.Reconciling the irreconcilable?

3. Can democracy survive without journalism? Can a robot replace a journalist?

4. Data protection rules to journalism’s rescue

4.1. Journalistic purposes

4.2. Identification of the purposes of data processing performed as part of automated “journalism”

4.3. From targeted advertisement to customized “journalistic” contents


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