Technology and human rights

Series co-sponsored with Business & Human Rights Resource Centre and University of Washington Rule of Law Initiative.


Photo:Shutterstock/Donatas Dabravolskas (All rights reserved)

Photo:EFE/Sohail Shahzad

Examples of how technology can be used as a powerful tool for human rights are ever expanding.  Newer technologies such as artificial intelligence, automation, and blockchain have the potential to make significant positive contributions to the promotion and protection of human rights. 

At the same time, however, rapid developments in artificial intelligence, automation and robotics raise serious questions about potential adverse human rights impacts and the future of work and rights of workers.  

The role of businesses, who will both create and utilize new technologies, is a critical issue.  Will the private sector develop and deploy technologies in a way that is consistent with respect for human rights, and that builds in appropriate safeguards to prevent and mitigate negative human rights outcomes?  At the same time, governments must also focus on their duty and examine how to ensure that businesses act responsibly.

The growth of these technologies raises important questions about whether our current policies, legal systems, and documentation and advocacy strategies are sufficient to mitigate the human rights risks that may result, many of which are still unknown. This series examines the potential and actual human rights risks posed by these technologies and how the human rights field can respond by exploring the following questions:

  • How can technology be a powerful force in support of human rights and what are the key human rights risks associated with the rapid expansion of newer technologies, such as artificial intelligence, automation, and blockchain?
  • How can norms and approaches in the business and human rights field, including use of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, help prevent or mitigate human rights risks of new technologies and hold companies developing these new technologies accountable?
  • What actions can rights advocates take to ensure that technological advances do not exacerbate inequality for those who are already among the most marginalized?
  • How does the deployment and development of these new technologies impact sustainable development and the promotion of human rights in the Global South?

Collaborating Partners (April 2018 onwards): the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre  a global human rights non-profit organization that works with everyone to advance human rights in business and eradicate abuse; and, the University of Washington Rule of Law Initiative. 

For more on the latest news and resources regarding technology and human rights, visit the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre’s technology and human rights portal.


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BY: Who Profits Research Center
العربية | Français

Restrictions on Palestinian mobile companies mean that Israeli companies ...

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BY: Theresa Harris
Español | العربية

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BY: Anita Gurumurthy & Deepti Bharthur
Español | Français

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BY: Bernard Shen

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The corporations’ dilemma: navigating government access to information

August 16, 2018
BY: Isabel Laura Ebert
Français | Deutsch

Technology can help to prevent conflict, but it can also facilitate human ...

New human rights principles on artificial intelligence

August 15, 2018
BY: Sherif Elsayed-Ali
Español | Français

A new set of principles—the Toronto Declaration—aims to put human rights ...

Risks and responsibilities of content moderation in online platforms

August 1, 2018
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Bringing justice close: an experiment in accessing justice with technology

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June 27, 2018
BY: Emre Eren Korkmaz
Türkçe | Español

Many governments have released official strategies to promote AI systems ...

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June 27, 2018
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June 20, 2018
BY: Samir Goswami

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May 17, 2018
BY: Matthew Fenech
Español | Français

Algorithms have long aided decision-making, but as artificial intelligence ...

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May 17, 2018
BY: Emre Eren Korkmaz
Türkçe | Español | Français

Artificial intelligence is rapidly transforming business models, but labor ...

As artificial intelligence progresses, what does real responsibility look like?

May 16, 2018
BY: Dunstan Allison-Hope & Mark Hodge
Español | Français | 日本語

Artificial intelligence is disrupting how we live, work, do business, ...

Apps and traps: why dating apps must do more to protect LGBTQ communities

May 16, 2018
BY: Afsaneh Rigot
العربية | فارسی

Repressive states are manipulating dating apps to find and target LGBTQ ...

Addressing the potential human rights risks of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”

May 16, 2018
BY: Phil Bloomer & Christen Dobson
Español | Deutsch

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DNA testing can help – and hinder – sexual violence prosecutions

February 28, 2018
BY: Karen Naimer
Español | Français

DNA technology in sexual violence cases can strengthen investigations ...

To strengthen digital security for human rights defenders, behavior matters

May 9, 2017
BY: Michael Caster
简体中文 | Español

When approaching digital security for human rights defenders in hostile ...

Ethics, technology and human rights: navigating new roads

March 28, 2017
BY: Danna Ingleton

When we incorporate new technologies into human rights work, we need to ...

The fine print: seeing beyond the hype in technology for human rights

March 8, 2017
BY: Zara Rahman

With all the hype about new technologies for human rights, activists must ...

Beyond science fiction: Artificial Intelligence and human rights

January 4, 2017
BY: Jonathan Drake

Artificial Intelligence is growing at rapid pace, and so are significant ...

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