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Ahead of our online event on May 16, Alexa Hagerty explores how digital transformation is impacting human rights.

Digital transformation and new technologies have profound and contradictory implications for human rights. 

On May 16, we will bring together an expert roundtable to discuss digital technologies, forensic investigation, and human rights and ask ‘what does rights-promoting technology look like?’ 

From predictive policing and biometric mass surveillance to cyberattacks against journalists and the automation of disinformation, emerging technologies threaten to undermine foundational human rights such as privacy, freedom of expression, and freedom of peaceful assembly.

In response, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called for urgent action, and in 2021 demanded a “moratorium on the sale and use of AI systems that pose serious human rights risks until adequate safeguards are put in place.”

“Researchers and policymakers are increasingly calling for human rights standards to form the basis of AI governance”

At the same time, the American Association for the Advancement of Science has declared that “AI technologies offer powerful new tools for human rights investigations, documentation, and policies.” Human rights organisations are increasingly turning to new technologies to defend fundamental rights and support humanitarian interventions.

Current applications include drones for delivering medication and urgent supplies, satellite data to locate suspected mass graves, and biometric identification systems for refugees.

While these systems may be deployed for vital services and to save lives they also raise the spectre of “humanitarian experimentation” and “surveillance humanitarianism,” increasing people’s vulnerability and failing to address underlying political structures. 

Finally researchers and policymakers are increasingly calling for human rights standards to form the basis of AI governance, arguing that these established international norms offer the most promising basis for developing universally recognized frameworks to ensure responsible design, deployment, and oversight of new technologies. 

Yet, human rights impact assessments and other forms of auditing may also act as a form of “ethics washing” allowing technology companies to claim due diligence without any real accountability.

Join our online conversation online on May 16, as we untangle the ways in which new technologies amplify threats to fundamental rights and offer possibilities as tools for action and resources for accountability. 

We hope to see you there.

By Alexa Hagerty, Affiliate, Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy 


How are new technologies impacting Human Rights?


17:00 – 18:00 BST

Tuesday May 16 2023

This conversation brings together AI and human rights experts, a forensic consultant, and an anthropologist of genocide and digital technologies to ask what does rights-promoting technology look like?

Register now