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28 Jan 2021


B-Tech foundational paper | Access to remedy and the technology sector: understanding the perspectives and needs of affected people and groups

...New digital technologies such as cloud computing, Internet of Things devices and artificial intelligence tools can significantly contribute to positive social, economic and development objectives. But these same technologies can also lead to negative impacts on people—infringing privacy rights, disseminating hate speech, undermining democratic processes and “algorithmic discrimination” (whether in the job market, the criminal justice system or in access to public services).

People seeking to raise grievances about human rights related issues arising from technology products and services continue to report significant difficulties in identifying, navigating and accessing the mechanisms best placed to deal with the substance of their complaints. The complexity of the sector, in terms of the technical issues as well as the business relationships involved (which can make it difficult to identify which companies may have a role in providing remedies and why) provides at least a partial explanation for these difficulties. Even so, these problems continue to be exacerbated in many cases by a lack of appreciation among developers and operators of grievance mechanisms of the importance of “human centered design” and, moreover, a lack of transparency about how many processes work in practice, including key decision-making points and methodologies.

Inattention to the perspectives and needs of actual and potential users of remediation mechanisms for business-related human rights harms—both in the design and operation of these mechanisms—is a widespread problem, and certainly not confined to the technology sector. However, technology companies, and the institutions responsible for regulating them, can face some particular challenges when it comes to identifying, analysing and responding well to stakeholder needs and perspectives.


  1. The process of seeking a remedy should be an empowering experience.
  2. Remediation mechanisms that respond well to the needs of affected people and groups are more likely to be trusted and used.
  3. The remedy ecosystem for harms associated with technology products and services is a particularly challenging one for affected people and groups to navigate.
  4. Affected people and groups typically encounter many and varied barriers to accessing remedies for human rights harms associated with technology products and services.
  5. Affected people and communities may not be able (and should not be expected) to explain their grievance in legal terms, or to articulate the harm they have suffered in human rights terms.
  6. Concerns about personal safety and well-being can be a significant barrier to seeking remedies for human rights harms.
  7. Transparency and clarity about the way that decisions are taken, and the circumstances in which decisions may be challenged and reviewed, are of vital importance to gaining and retaining the trust of actual and potential users of mechanisms.
  8. Providing for some form of independent review of decision-making can considerably enhance the credibility of mechanisms with affected people and groups.