About Us

Housed at the Human Rights Centre of the University of Essex and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project considers both the challenges to and opportunities for human rights presented by big data and associated technology.

Technology has the potential to impact upon all aspects of society. The use of technology is becoming essential to the conduct of government operations, to businesses, and to individuals’ day-to-day lives. Technology and human rights have become inextricably intertwined, and this is set to continue in line with progress towards the Information Society. This interconnectivity means that technology has concrete human rights’ implications, which can be both positive and negative.

Significantly, the full extent of the human rights’ implications are not yet known. Technology and the use of big data may offer an unprecedented opportunity to secure the fulfillment of human rights. Equally, the misuse of technology and big data may interfere with human rights protections and undermine the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Within this context, the Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project was granted £5 million of funding from the Economic and Social Research Council to explore the human rights implications of big data and associated technology.

Matched by £1 million from the University of Essex, the Project will explore issues such as how big data gathered through social media can be used against populations, but also how it can be harnessed to document human rights violations, assist in the enjoyment and protection of human rights, and improve lives around the world.

Specifically, the aims of the Project are to:

  • Map and analyse the challenges and opportunities of the use of big data and associated technology from a human rights perspective;
  • Consider whether fundamental human rights concepts and approaches need to be updated and adapted to meet the new realities of technology in the era of big data; and,
  • Develop good practice guidelines on technology, big data and human rights and propose remedies and regulatory responses from a rights-based perspective.

You can find more information about our team, governance and partners via the drop down menu at the top of the page.

  • Jun122017

    We’re Hiring – Senior Research Officer

    Applications are invited for the position of Senior Research Officer at the Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of…

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  • May312017

    Human Rights Practice in the Digital Age Workshop

    The Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project co-hosted a one-day workshop with the Centre of Governance & Human Rights…

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Bridging the Gender Digital Divide from a Human Rights Perspective
Bridging the Gender Digital Divide from a Human Rights Perspective
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This week, the United Nations Human Rights Council will discuss a report prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner…

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Algorithmic Decision-Making and Human Rights
Algorithmic Decision-Making and Human Rights
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‘Man Vs. Machine’. ‘How algorithms rule the world’. ‘How algorithms rule our working lives’. ‘How Machines Learn to be Racist.’…

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Our Partners

University of Cambridge
Eye Witness Media
FXB Center for Health & Human Rights
Human Rights Data Analysis Group
Universal Rights Group
World Health Organisation
Geneva Academy