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With Great Reliance Comes Great Responsibility: The Role of Technology Companies during Covid-19
Rau, Sabrina (2020) 'With Great Reliance Comes Great Responsibility: The Role of Technology Companies during Covid-19.' In: Ferstman, Carla and Fagan, Andrew, (eds.) Covid-19, Law and Human Rights : Essex Dialogues. A Project of the School of Law and Human Rights Centre. University of Essex, 277 - 286. ISBN 978-1-5272-6632-2
Technology companies have been playing a key role during Covid-19 from assisting state responses to improving quality of life during lockdown. These companies are providing means of communication, work, education, social and cultural life that would otherwise be impossible. As tech companies are now playing an essential facilitating role in enabling human rights in this way, a key question emerges: Should tech companies facilitating essential services bear special responsibilities? This paper argues that tech company obligations are heightened to the extent that the means through which they meet their due diligence obligations are amplified. This will be demonstrated by first illustrating the unique role that tech companies are playing during Covid-19, and second, examining whether special obligations should apply to those companies that are facilitating essential services. Third, this paper will recommend practical steps in the form of three types of human rights impact assessments (HRIAs) that companies should carry out as a starting point to understanding how they can meet their responsibility to respect human rights.