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3 Aug 2022

Buffering rights: How Europe's new due diligence regulation can help reverse tech rights risks


The current technology revolution has enormous potential for human development. But the dark side of technology is growing quickly, and human rights concerns around hate speech, fake news, intrusive surveillance, coercive algorithms, discriminatory artificial intelligence and pollution are on the rise. Currently, without adequate business regulation, inscrutable and abusive practice by irresponsible tech companies can enjoy impunity. The existing scale and scope of abuse risks squandering public trust in the tech giants for good, permanently endangering their social licences to operate.

Europe’s welcome draft Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive seeks to transform the European business model by stipulating that companies must undertake human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD) to address human rights risks and harms in their global operations and supply chains. The Directive has enormous potential to insist the tech sector transforms itself to end abuse, and contributes to shared prosperity and effective democracy – but it must be strengthened in order to fulfil this potential and shape a rights-respecting technology sector. The good news is this task is relatively straightforward. The Directive is built on the UNGPs, and bringing the Directive fully in line with them will address its primary weaknesses.

This briefing explores key areas for strengthening the Directive, as identified by civil society, legislators, responsible companies and investors:

  • Scope of companies and sectors
  • Scope of rights
  • Value chains and business relationships
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Complaints procedure
  • Liability

An effective European due diligence law will help transform the tech sector’s all-too-frequent response to human rights abuse – from ‘how could we have known?’ to a proactive ‘how do we know (and act)?’. This shift is within reach.

Fitting a technology lens on the EU mandatory human rights & environmental due diligence Directive

Strengthening the EU's draft Directive on mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence to ensure tech companies are adequately covered is crucial, says Gayatri Khandhadai, Head of Technology & Human Rights at BHRRC.

Further reading

Technology & Human Rights

Technology offers powerful tools for society, but restrictions to digital freedom, and developments in artificial intelligence, automation and robotics, raise serious concerns about the impacts on human rights and the future of work. Explore the latest news, resources and information.

Towards EU mandatory due diligence legislation

We approached diverse voices from academia, public sector, civil society and business, from the global South and North to contribute and explore what meaningful EU mandatory due diligence and corporate accountability legislation should look like.

Navigating the surveillance technology ecosystem: A human rights due diligence guide for investors

As shareholders in companies with activities or investments in the surveillance technology ecosystem, investors have a critical role to play in promoting human rights and helping to uphold the UNGPs. Read our investor guide to due diligence in surveillance tech.