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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.

Artificial intelligence, automation, and the gig economy can free us from drudgery, enrich our leisure, and build societies of shared prosperity. They have equal potential to create mass unemployment, hollow-out lives, and worsen inequality. Putting human rights at the core of this new wave of technology in global markets will help define which road we choose. This portal is a digital platform for dialogue and action on this choice.
Phil Bloomer, Executive Director, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Modern technology presents great utility and promise, including for human rights. The development of the Internet has widened access to knowledge, while new media platforms have given activists fast ways to organise communities and share messages at scale. Emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, may significantly expand the availability and quality of data that informs policy and healthcare decisions for the benefit of society. Their proponents argue that these technologies will create new opportunities, increase efficiency, and help maximise human potential.

At the same time, rapid developments in artificial intelligence, automation, and robotics raise questions about their impacts on human rights and the future of work. The use of machines to increase productivity risks resulting in heightened social inequality through downward pressure on wages and the loss of jobs. The growth of the “gig economy,” facilitated by new technologies, has contributed to changing the nature of work by increasing the availability of flexible positions that provide opportunities for some while negatively affecting the livelihoods of others. And in the background, mass data collection can lead to violations of the right to privacy and inhibit free and fair societies.   

The extent of these impacts remains unknown. Human rights organisations are exploring how to ensure that advances in technology benefit all people and do not exacerbate inequality for marginalised populations.

Tech company dashboards

Explore information on the human rights records of 120+ technology companies around the world

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