Technology & Human Rights

Examining how technological advancements affect the future of human rights.

While recognizing the enormous progress that societies have made since the establishment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, technological advancements have inevitably profound implications for the human rights framework.

From a practical perspective, technology can help move the human rights agenda forward. For instance, the use of satellite data can monitor the flow of displaced people; artificial intelligence can assist with image recognition to gather data on rights abuses; and the use of forensic technology can reconstruct crime scenes and hold perpetrators accountable. Yet for the multitude of areas in which emerging technologies advance the human rights agenda, technological developments have equal capacity to undermine efforts. From authoritarian states monitoring political dissidents by way of surveillance technologies, to the phenomenon of “deepfakes” destabilizing the democratic public sphere, ethical and policy-oriented implications must be taken into consideration with the development of technological innovations.  

Technological advancements also introduce new actors to the human rights framework. The movement has historically focused on the role of the state in ensuring rights and justice. Today, technological advancements and the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning, in particular, necessitate interaction, collaboration, and coordination with leaders from business and technology in addition to government.

News and Announcements

See all announcements

Select Publications

Artificial Intelligence and the Past, Present, and Future of Democracy

Citation:

Mathias Risse. 7/28/2021. “Artificial Intelligence and the Past, Present, and Future of Democracy.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. See full text.
Artificial Intelligence and the Past, Present, and Future of Democracy

Abstract:

Located at the intersection of political philosophy, philosophy of technology and political history, this essay reflects on medium and long-term prospects and challenges for democracy that arise from AI, emphasizing how critical a stage this is. Modern democracies involve structures for collective choice that periodically empower relatively few people to steer the social direction for everybody. As in all forms of governance, technology shapes how this unfolds. Specialized AI changes what philosophers of technology would call the materiality of democracy, not just in the sense that independent actors deploy different tools. AI changes how collective decision making unfolds and what its human participants are like (how they see themselves in relation to their environment, what relationships they have and how those are designed, and generally what form of human life can get realized). AI and democracy are not “natural allies:” it takes active design choices and much political will for AI so serve democratic purposes.

Read the full paper

: Mathias Risse | July 26 2021
: How does AI instigate prospects and challenges for modern democracies in our near and distant futures?
Last updated on 07/26/2021

The Promise and Pitfalls of the Facebook Oversight Board

Citation:

Flynn Coleman, Brandie Nonnecke, and Elizabeth M. Renieris. 5/6/2021. “The Promise and Pitfalls of the Facebook Oversight Board.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. Read the Discussion.
The Promise and Pitfalls of the Facebook Oversight Board

Abstract:

The Facebook Oversight Board recently issued its first decisions on content removals by Facebook. See what some of the Carr Center Technology and Human Rights Fellows had to say about the benefits, challenges, and risks of external oversight boards for platform governance and accountability.

Read the discussion.

: Carr Center Technology and Human Rights Fellows | May 6 2021
: What are the benefits, challenges, and risks of external oversight boards for platform governance and accountability?
Last updated on 05/06/2021

Data as Collectively Generated Patterns: Making Sense of Data Ownership

Citation:

Mathias Risse. 4/26/2021. “Data as Collectively Generated Patterns: Making Sense of Data Ownership.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. See full text.
Data as Collectively Generated Patterns: Making Sense of Data Ownership

Abstract:

Data ownership is power. Who should hold that power? How should data be owned?  The importance of data ownership explains why it has been analogized to other domains where ownership is better understood. Several data-as proposals are on the table: data as oil, as intellectual property, as personhood, as salvage, data as labor, etc. Author Mathias Risse proposes another way of thinking about data.  His view characterizes data in ways that make them accessible to ownership considerations and can be expressed as a data-as view: data as collectively generated patterns. Unlike the alternatives, data as collectively generated patterns does not create any equivalence with another domain where ownership is already well-understood. It reveals how ownership considerations enter, but we must explore afresh how they do. Accordingly, he proposes a way for ownership considerations to bear on data once we understand them that way. And if we did understand them that way, the internet should presumably be designed very differently from what we have now. 

 

Read the full paper.

: Mathias Risse | April 26 2021
: Data ownership is power. Who should hold that power?
Last updated on 04/26/2021
  •  
  • 1 of 12
  • »
See all publications

“Global civil society and transnational advocacy networks have played an important role in social movements and struggles for social change. Looking ahead, these movements need to coalesce around the impact of technology on society, in particular harnessing the promise, challenging the perils, and looking at maintaining public and private spheres that respect creativity, autonomy, diversity, and freedom of thought and expression.”

- Sushma Raman