The Human Rights and Technology Project considers how we should protect and promote human rights in the context of the rise of new and emerging technologies.
We are all entitled to enjoy our human rights for one simple reason—we are human. We possess human rights regardless of our background, age, gender, sexual orientation, political opinion, religious belief or other status.
Human rights are centred on the inherent dignity and value of each person, and they recognise humans’ ability to make free choices about how to live.
Australia has obligations under international human rights law to respect, promote and fulfil human rights.
For more information on the Human Rights and Technology Project and to make a submission to the Discussion Paper go to (Make a submission)
A human rights approach to new technologies
Human rights and technology
New technologies engage many human rights. New technologies can advance or restrict one or more human rights, and sometimes offer both possibilities at once. For example:
- Surveillance technologies can undermine privacy, freedom of expression and association. Yet these technologies also can be used to promote community safety.
- Social media can present new opportunities for children to learn and communicate, but it can also foster online bullying and harassment.
- Government services can be delivered more efficiently and fairly reduce costs, create efficiency and promote a range of social, economic and cultural rights, especially for vulnerable groups using AI and digital technologies. However, not everyone has equal access to these technologies, and they have been used in ways that unfairly disadvantage particular groups based on their socio-economic status, race, disability, age or geographical location.
A human rights approach
Adopting a human rights approach means building human rights into all aspects of policy development and decision making. Some key features of a human rights approach include that it will:
- Promote transparency in government decision making. Governments should consider the impact of policy and governance for new technologies on people’s human rights, and build in safeguards for human rights protection.
- Ensure accountability of:
- government, by putting in place measures to influence government use of new technologies
- the private sector, with clear and enforceable laws to protect the community.
- Ensure that new technologies are non-discriminatory in their application. For example, anti-discrimination law should be applied to the development and use of new technologies, such as AI. It also means taking into account the specific needs of all members of the community, such as people with disability who may face exclusion by inaccessible technologies.
- Require participatory approaches. This aims to ensure the voices of everyone affected by new technologies are heard, including the general public, particularly affected groups and civil society, as well as experts and decision makers.
- Build capacity across the community. The community needs to understand the impact of new technologies on their lives, such as the impact of automation in decision making processes for essential services, and have knowledge of, and access to, a review process and/or remedy.
In this Project, the Commission has used a human rights approach to identify the critical human rights engaged by new and emerging technologies, and analyse the impact of new and emerging technologies on Australian society.
There are many areas of human rights and technology that would benefit from dedicated research, analysis and consultation. The Commission focuses on three substantive issues—regulation, accessibility and AI-informed decision-making—that emerged in its first phase of consultation as pressing issues, with very significant implications for human rights.