Project to scrutinise intersection of technology and human rights

Human Rights Commission launches three-year project on impact of emerging technologies

The Australian Human Rights Commission has unveiled a three-year project that will examine the social impact of new and emerging technologies.

Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), 3D printing and drones can, depending on how they’re use, improve people’s lives or curtail their human rights, the commission said.

“Human rights must shape the future these incredible innovations have made possible,” Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow said in a statement.

“We must seize the opportunities technology presents but also guard against threats to our rights and the potential for entrenched inequality and disadvantage.”

“Since the advent of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 70 years ago, the modern human rights framework has proven adaptable to changing external events,” an issues paper released by the commission states. “And so our task is not to develop new human rights standards, but rather to apply the existing standards to address the technological challenges that confront us.”

“New technologies are causing us to rethink our understanding of particular human rights,” the paper states. “For example, there has been increasing attention to the implications of the internet, and its role in modern life, for freedom of expression.”

Human rights and privacy groups have recently raised concerns with the Australian government’s pledge to introduce legislation to enhance law enforcement access to encrypted communications as well as the federal, state and territory project to create a national facial recognition service — a project the Human Rights Commission has argued will create the infrastructure for “mass surveillance”.

The new paper “starts the conversation the commission will have with industry, government, academia and civil society over the coming months,” Santow said.

“Working collaboratively, we will develop a practical roadmap for reform in Australia.”

The paper is available from the HRC website.

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