photo credit : lukuntin77
Digital technologies – particularly AI – are evolving at a meteoric pace, leaving very little chance to carefully consider their human rights implications and how to mitigate their risks.
On 14 June 2023, the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue had the pleasure of convening a panel discussion “Surveillance Technology and Human Rights : Beyond the Security – Freedom Dilemma”.
Today, surveillance technologies – which refers to any digital device used to monitor people and their activities – have expanded to every aspect of life. From law enforcement to the health sector; and from communications to public spaces. Regrettably, the potential of these technologies for advancing human development is superseded by numerous recorded human rights violations.
In reaction to NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware scandal in 2021, former High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet declared in a statement that “Various parts of the UN Human Rights system […] have repeatedly raised serious concerns about the dangers of authorities using surveillance tools from a variety of sources supposed to promote public safety in order to hack the phones and computers of people conducting legitimate journalistic activities, monitoring human rights or expressing dissent or political opposition”.
Indeed, targeted surveillance has made led to the track-down, silencing and endangerment of many. Similarly, in many instances mass surveillance practices have been deployed at the detriment of marginalized or minority groups. And personal data is being shared among public and private actors across borders, with no common mandatory regulation or oversight mechanisms.
National legislations are regularly amended, either to strengthen human rights requirements, or on the contrary, grant authorities more power under claims of counter-terrorism or national security. For these reasons, this panel discussions aims at sharing perspectives from a wide range of domains to frankly address the security – freedom dilemma and advocate for human rights as an imperative in technology deployment and trade.
A follow-up publication, drawing from the discussions and in particular the recommendations and lessons learned from the panel, will be developed and distributed online.
Watch the full recording of the panel discussion on Youtube.