HRBDT News Summary 2019

It is a great pleasure to introduce this newsletter, celebrating the work of the ESRC Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project in 2019.

As detailed in this report, 2019 was a particularly busy and exciting year for the team. We were actively involved in policy debates at the international level, through our engagement at the United Nations; with government bodies and other state agencies developing policies and approaches to data analytics and artificial intelligence; with major technology corporations; and with civil society

During 2019, HRBDT also expanded its links and worked closely with academics across the world. Our team delivered over 80 keynote and panel presentations in 19 countries around the world, including at the UN Human Rights Council, the Annual Meeting of the Special Procedures Mandate Holders of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights Global Consultation, the UNESCO Mobile Learning Week and World Press Freedom Day, the Council of Europe, EU Fundamental Rights Agency, the annual Swedish National Health Policy Conference, the German Ministry for Foreign Affairs Human Rights Day Conference, at RightsCon, EmTech, Misinfo Con and Real AI.

Our research and policy engagement focus on identifying how new and emerging technologies can be used to enhance the enjoyment of human rights. Central to achieving this objective is effectively addressing the digital divide and promoting a more inclusive approach to the design, development, and deployment of technology. Building on our 2018 report on the UDHR at 70, in 2019 we launched a new project investigating how groups, such as older persons, can use digital technologies as a means of increasing autonomy and independence and human rights enjoyment. Our work also involves investigating and developing new ways of working for human rights and humanitarian organisations through the use of natural language processing and images and key
publications on these will be released in 2020.

At the same time, our research details the serious risks the use of new and emerging technologies pose to the enjoyment of human rights, if a clear legal basis and adequate and effective safeguards are not in place. Our major report published in July 2019 on the use of live facial recognition technologies by the London Metropolitan Police underscores this point as does our ongoing work on disinformation and hate speech and the use of new and emerging technologies in other areas of policing, by the intelligence services, in the health and social care sectors and in refugee protection.

During 2019, our research therefore focused on showing how the international human rights framework can contribute to the regulation and governance of these technologies and ensure that individuals and groups whose rights are affected can access remedies, with key research published on algorithmic accountability.

Looking ahead, in 2020 we will be publishing a range of major research outputs including reports on disinformation and human rights; the rights of older persons in the context of new and emerging technologies; the chilling effect of surveillance; human rights compliant intelligence oversight; digital policing in India, Germany and Brazil; a human rights based-approach to OSINT; the UNGPs in the tech sector; and a human rights analysis of national AI strategies.

We would like to extend particular thanks to the ESRC for the funding that makes our work possible and to our many partners in academia and practice for their extensive support and rich collaboration.

Professor Lorna McGregor
Director, ESRC Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project