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.

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2021 Dec 07

Technology for Social Good? AI, Human Rights, and Harm Reduction with Dr. Jay Aronson

12:00pm to 1:00pm

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The volume of information available to human rights practitioners has grown steadily since the globalization of Internet access and the widespread adoption of smartphones across geographies, cultures, and socioeconomic classes. This vast material landscape creates an unprecedented visual record of the experiences of a significant percentage of humanity. When properly collected and analyzed, this material can help human rights analysts, fact-finders, and researchers reconstruct war crimes, human rights violations, and terrorist acts taking place in locations that offer limited or no...

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Public Health, Technology, and Human Rights: Lessons Learned from Digital Contact Tracing

Citation:

Maria Carnovale and Khahlil Louisy. 9/27/2021. “Public Health, Technology, and Human Rights: Lessons Learned from Digital Contact Tracing.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. See full text.
Public Health, Technology, and Human Rights: Lessons Learned from Digital Contact Tracing

Abstract:

To mitigate inefficiencies in manual contact tracing processes, Digital contact tracing and exposure notifications systems were developed for use as public-interest technologies during the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) global pandemic. Effective implementation of these tools requires alignment across several factors, including local regulations and policies and trust in government and public health officials. Careful consideration should also be made to minimize any potential conflicts with existing processes in public health, which has demonstrated effectiveness. Four unique cases—of Ireland, Guayaquil (Ecuador), Haiti, and the Philippines—detailed in this paper will highlight the importance of upholding the principles of Scientific Validity, Necessity, Time-Boundedness, and Proportionality.

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author/date: Maria Carnovale & Khahlil Louisy | Sep 27 2021
teaser text: Digital contact tracing and exposure notifications systems should be developed and implemented in line with the principles of scientific validity, necessity, time-boundedness, and proportionality.
Last updated on 09/28/2021

The Fourth Generation of Human Rights: Epistemic Rights in Digital Lifeworlds

The Fourth Generation of Human Rights: Epistemic Rights in Digital Lifeworlds

Abstract:

In contrast to China’s enormous efforts to upgrade its system of governance to a new technological level built around a stupefying amount of data collection and electronic scoring, countries committed to democracy and human rights did not upgrade their systems. Instead of adjusting democracy and human rights to the new technological possibilities, those countries ended up with surveillance capitalism. It is vital for the sheer survival of those ideas about governance to perform such an upgrade. The present project aims to contribute to that. I propose a framework of epistemic actorhood in terms of four roles, and characterize digital lifeworlds and what matters about them, in terms of both how they fit in with Max Tegmark’s distinction among various stages of human life and how they give rise to their own episteme and the data episteme, with its immense possibilities of infopower (vocabulary inspired by Foucault). A set of epistemic rights that strengthen existing human rights—as part of a fourth generation of rights—is needed to protect epistemic actorhood in those roles, which would be a long way towards performing this kind of upgrade. In the long run, as we progress into Life 3.0, we need a new kind of human right, the right to the exercise of genuinely human intelligence. The good news is that, to the extent that we can substantiate the meaning of human life in the uncaring world that natural science describes, we can substantiate such a right vis-à-vis nonhuman intelligent life. We must hope that arguments of this sort can persuade a superior intelligence—which is by definition, massively beyond ours, and hard to anticipate.

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author/date: Mathias Risse | Sep 17 2021
teaser text: Life 3.0 and the development of non-human intelligent life call for a fourth generation of human rights, including the the right to the exercise of genuinely human intelligence.
Last updated on 09/28/2021

Media Freedom and Technological Change

Citation:

Vivek Krishnamurthy, Mark Latonero, Rachel Kuchma, Elif Nur Kumru, and Geneviève Plumptre. 8/11/2021. “Media Freedom and Technological Change.” Carr Center Discussion Paper Series. See full text.
Media Freedom and Technological Change

Abstract:

The concept of media freedom developed in the 20th century alongside efforts to advance governmental transparency and accountability in democracies. Media freedom empowers journalists, enabling them to act as checks on governments and other powerful social actors, and allowing them to contribute to a democratic discourse that is fact-based and accessible. The principle also provides an analytical framework for interrogating the central role that the news media plays in democratic societies. Even so, current understandings of media freedom remain rooted in the historical postwar moment that gave rise to the concept: a period that predates the information revolution and the proliferation of new communications technologies.

Technological change has transformed the economics of the news industry and undermined the ad-supported business models of legacy media organizations. This destabilization poses a fundamental challenge to the old model of media freedom, forcing questions of who today is entitled to media freedom and whether current media freedom protections are sufficient. To ensure the ongoing relevance of media freedom, the concept must evolve to address the contemporary conditions of news production, and the new impediments to gathering and disseminating fact-based information in the public interest.
 

Read the paper. 

: Krishnamurthy et al. | August 11 2021
: The concept of media freedom developed in the 20th century alongside efforts to advance governmental transparency and accountability in democracies.
Last updated on 08/11/2021
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“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