UN Special Rapporteur explores AI implications for human rights

31 Oct 2018

In a report submitted to the UN General Assembly in August 2018, but made publicly available in October, the UN Special Rapporteur for the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, analysed the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on human rights. The report pays particular attention to the right to freedom of opinion, the right to freedom of expression, the right to privacy, the obligation of non-discrimination, and the right to an effective remedy, and how AI could challenge these rights and principles. Among the recommendations outlined in the report, Kaye suggests that states should ensure that AI is developed in keeping with human rights standards, and that any state efforts to develop policies and regulations in the field of AI should ensure consideration of human rights concerns. Companies are also advised that their efforts to formulate guidelines or codes on ethical implications of AI should be grounded in human rights principles. Moreover, human rights impact assessments and public consultations should be carried out during the design and deployment of AI systems, and AI code should be fully auditable.

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Privacy and data protection are two interrelated Internet governance issues. Data protection is a legal mechanism that ensures privacy. Privacy is usually defined as the right of any citizen to control their own personal information and to decide about it (to disclose information or not). Privacy is a fundamental human right. It is recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in many other international and regional human rights conventions. The July 2015 appointment of the first UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age reflects the rising importance of privacy in global digital policy, and the recognition of the need to address privacy rights issues the the global, as well as national levels.

Several international instruments guarantee the right to freedom of expression. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that this right includes the freedom to hold opinion without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. The Internet, with the opportunity it offers people to express themselves, is seen as an enabler of the exercise of this particular human right. Although these freedoms are guaranteed in global instruments and in national constitutions, in some countries freedom of expression is often curtailed through online censorship or filtering mechanisms, imposed by states, often for political reasons.


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