Human Rights, Big Data and Technology

Are big data and technology threats to human rights?

ESRC

The ESRC-funded ‘Human Rights, Big Data and Technology’ project maps and analyses the challenges and opportunities presented by the use of information and communications technology (ICT) and big data from a human rights perspective.

Modern computing methods, in particular so-called big data technology, constitute a paradigm shift in how we interact and communicate. However, as underscored by the Edward Snowden revelations, the collection and analysis of big data poses a risk to privacy. These revelations are part of a much bigger picture in which state surveillance and near ubiquitous non-state “soft-surveillance” occur on a routine, daily basis. This poses threats across a broad spectrum of rights, including to liberty, freedom of expression and equality and non-discrimination.

However the same technologies that potentially threaten rights also provide opportunities for their enhanced protection. For example, social media provides a platform for better documentation of human rights violations. Additionally, technology can demonstrate the effectiveness of rights-shaped policies in areas such as health promotion in order to influence resource allocation and budgets.

Edward Snowden

Snowden's revelations are part of a much bigger picture.

Drawing on the wide range of expertise of its interdisciplinary researchers and partner organisations, the project considers whether fundamental human rights concepts and approaches need to be adapted to meet the rapidly evolving technological landscape. The work also brings together practitioners in the fields of human rights and technology, international internet governance, the UN, technology industries, and academics, to assess existing regulatory responses and the need for reforms in order to maximise effective human rights protection.

This project is innovative in its holistic examination of the ways in which the use of ICT and big data both threaten rights and offer opportunities to strengthen their protection and implementation. Through this wide lens, the project will establish the need for a fundamental re-assessment of the theory and practice of human rights and will advance approaches to regulation in a constantly changing technological world.

Launch of the Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project from University of Essex on Vimeo.

  • Professor Sonia Bhalotra, Dept. of Economics, University of Essex
  • Dr Chris Fox, School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex
  • Professor Peter Fussey, Dept. of Sociology, University of Essex
  • Professor Paul Hunt, School of Law, University of Essex
  • Professor Sheldon Leader, School of Law, University of Essex
  • Professor Massimo Poesio, School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex
  • Professor Klaus McDonald-Maier, School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex
  • Dr Ahmed Shaheed, School of Law, University of Essex
  • Dr David Erdos, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge

  • Dr James Allen-Robertson, Dept. of Sociology, University of Essex
  • Dr Daniel Berger, Dept. of Government, University of Essex
  • Professor Maria Fasli, School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex
  • Professor Geoff Gilbert, School of Law, University of Essex
  • Dr Timo Jütten, School of Philosophy and Art History, University of Essex
  • Professor Udo Kruschwitz, School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex
  • Dr Linsey McGoey, Dept. of Sociology, University of Essex
  • Professor Giovanni Mastrobuoni, Dept. Economics, University of Essex
  • Professor Sabine Michalowski, School of Law, University of Essex
  • Dr Daragh Murray, School of Law, University of Essex
  • Dr Éadaoin O’Brien, School of Law, University of Essex
  • Dr Alejandro Quiroz Flores, Dept. of Government, University of Essex

  • Dr Matthew Bennett, Research and Enterprise Office, University of Essex
  • Dr Chris Fox, School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex
  • Professor Peter Fussey, Dept. of Sociology, University of Essex
  • Professor Paul Hunt, School of Law, University of Essex
  • Mr Ville Karhusaari, Research and Enterprise Office, University of Essex
  • Ms Catherine Kent, School of Law, University of Essex
  • Professor Sheldon Leader, School of Law, University of Essex
  • Professor Lorna McGregor, Director of the Human Rights Centre, University of Essex
  • Dr Daragh Murray, School of Law, University of Essex
  • Dr Ahmed Shaheed, School of Law, University of Essex
  • Professor Maurice Sunkin, School of Law, University of Essex
  • Dr Gary Williams, Research and Enterprise Office, University of Essex

  • Eyewitness Media
  • FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University
  • Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights
  • Human Rights Data Analysis Group
  • Universal Rights Group
  • World Health Organisation

For more information, please contact Catherine Kent.

Contact Details

Catherine Kent

Human Rights Project Officer

University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, Essex, CO4 3SQ

01206 873879

hrbdt@essex.ac.uk

http://www.hrbdt.ac.uk/

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