Ethics and regulation

Informing the governance and regulation of the design, development and use of big data, AI and emerging technologies.

A core part of our work informs the governance and regulation of the design, development and use of big data, AI and emerging technologies. Much of the debate on regulating AI focuses on ethics.

In our work, we view ethical principles, such as fairness and transparency, as important. For example, it is critical that there is transparency by governments and businesses about when big data, algorithms, machine learning and other types of technology are being used in decisions about us. However, we do not think ethical principles are sufficient to address the significant risks big data and emerging technologies pose to human rights. We argue for a human rights-based approach to the design, development and use of AI.

A Human Rights-Based Approach

A human rights-based approach requires that existing, internationally established, international legal principles are applied to the design, development and use of AI. This is important to avoid reinventing the wheel and prevent the perception that AI exists in a legal vacuum. Human rights laws provide concrete means to identify harm and they also require states and businesses to put in place preventive, oversight and accountability processes and to enable individuals adversely affected by the use of big data and AI to access justice.

A human rights-based approach also includes key principles to shape how AI governance and regulation are approached. These includes principles of participation to ensure that those most affected are able to be meaningfully involved in discussions about how emerging technologies are governed.

As AI regulation and governance is at an early stage, we argue that a human rights based approach needs to be taken in regulatory approaches to AI generally, within sectors as well as by state agencies and companies seeking to design or use AI technologies.

Our research

Our current research is examining national AI strategies and ways in which to operationalise the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

For more on our work on AI governance and regulation, see:

Our Partners

Queen Mary University of London
University of Cambridge
Eye Witness Media
Universal Rights Group
World Health Organisation
Geneva Academy