Other human rights


In the view of the permeability of algorithmic technics and automated data processing in all aspects of the contemporary life, the Committee of Ministers of the CoE has drafted recommendation to member states to evaluate the impacts of the application of algorithmic systems in public and private spheres on the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The document outlines that the misuse of algorithmic systems can jeopardise the rights to privacy, freedom of expression and prohibition of discrimination provided by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Although public and private sector initiatives to develop ethical guidelines for the design, development and deployment of algorithmic systems are welcome, they do not substitute the duty of member States to guarantee that human rights obligation are embedded into all steps of their algorithmic operations. In addition, member States should ensure appropriated regulatory frameworks to promote human rights-respecting technological innovation by all actors. The guidelines for States on actions to address the use of algorithmic system include data quality and modelling standards; principles of transparency and contestability; provision of effective judicial and non-judicial remedies to review algorithmic decisions; the implementation of precautionary measures to maintain control over the use of algorithmic systems; and empowerment through research and public awareness. The document also engages responsibilities for private actors that member States should ensure, including guidelines on data quality and modelling.  ​

The Committee of Ministers drafted a Declaration to draw attention to the member States to the rights of all human beings to take decisions and form opinions independently of automated systems. The document underlines the risks of using massive amounts of personal and non-personal data to sort and micro-target people, to identify vulnerabilities, and to reshape social environments to achieve specific goals and vested interests. The draft encourages member States (1) to consider additional protective frameworks to address the impacts of the targeted use of data on the exercise of human rights; (2) to initiate inclusive public debates on permissible forms of persuasion and unacceptable manipulation; (3) to empower users by promoting digital literacy on how much data are generated and used for commercial purposes.

Freedom House's report Freedom on the Net 2018: The Rise Of Digital Authoritarianism shows key findings that: 

  • Declines outnumber gains for the eighth consecutive year, with almost half of these being election-related.
  • China trains the world in digital authoritarianism.
  • Internet freedom declined in the United States (mostly due to a decline in net neutrality protections).
  • Citing fake news, governments curbed online dissent (17 countries).
  • Authorities demand control over personal data (18 countries increased surveillance).

In his introduction to the report, Fake news, data collection, and the challenge to democracyAdrian Shahbaz said 'Events this year have confirmed that the internet can be used to disrupt democracies as surely as it can destabilize dictatorships'  [...] 'With or without malign intent, the internet and social media in particular can push citizens into polarized echo chambers and pull at the social fabric of a country, fueling hostility between different communities.'


                                                                               Changes in Internet Freedom 2018 Freedom House

In Jamal Khashoggi: All you need to know about Saudi journalist's death, the BBC summarises reports about the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey on 2 October. The article gives details of the development of different government responses, the investigation, and a timeline.

Pat Didomenco asks Is illegal bias lurking in your online job ad? when writing about bias in online employment ads, highlighting the recent American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against Facebook and 10 employers that post ads on Facebook. The complaint alleges that Facebook used its ad-targeting features to target men, while not showing online ads for police officers, construction workers, truck drivers, and sales staff to women. Didomenco also points out discriminatory practices in age discrimination, and how to identify bias.

                                                                       Facebook gender targeted ad

                                                                          Image source: Seattle Times

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, in the case of ‘Big Brother Watch and Others v. The United Kingdom’ ruled that the UK’s programme of mass surveillance, the so-called Tempora, revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, violated the right to privacy of those targeted.  Three aspects of digital surveillance were considered by the judges: bulk interception of communications, intelligence sharing, and obtaining of communications data from communications service providers. By a majority of five to two votes, the judges found that UK’s Government Communications Headquarters’ (GCHQ) bulk interception regime violated article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, the court found that the GCHQ’s regime for sharing digital intelligence with foreign governments did not violate article 8 or article 10, therefore was not illegal. This means that sharing with foreign governments did not violate either the right to a private and family life, or to free speech. The judgment also says that not enough protection was given to journalistic sources and that the bulk interception violated the right to freedom of information. The claims were brought by a coalition of 14 human rights groups, privacy organisations and journalists, which include Amnesty International, Liberty, Privacy International, and Big Brother Watch, among others, upon the revelations made by Snowden in 2013, which showed GCHQ’s programme Tempora secretly intercepting, processing, and storing data about millions of people’s private communications, even those who were of no intelligence interest. The judgment cites: ‘The United Kingdom authorities have neither confirmed nor denied the existence of an operation codenamed Tempora.’ The director of the Big Brother Watch, Silkie Carlo, stated: ‘This landmark judgment confirming that the UK’s mass spying breached fundamental rights vindicates Mr Snowden’s courageous whistleblowing and the tireless work of Big Brother Watch and others in our pursuit for justice. This judgment is a vital step towards protecting millions of law-abiding citizens from unjustified intrusion. However, since the new Investigatory Powers Act arguably poses an ever greater threat to civil liberties, our work is far from over.’



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