UN Working Group issues a report on new technologies and enforced disappearances

The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances presented a report to the Human Rights Council about the ambivalent relationship between new technologies and enforced disappearances.

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The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UN Working Group) found that the tie between new technologies and enforced disappearance is complex. The UN Working Group issued a report to the 54th session of the Human Rights Council on 19 September 2023, addressing the advantages of using the newest technological resources to aid investigators and human rights defenders in locating the disappeared and bringing those responsible for the crimes to justice.

However, the Working Group has emphasised numerous concerns regarding the misuse of such technologies to harm other individuals or hinder the process of locating them. The main concerns mentioned are Internet shutdowns, spyware programs, surveillance technology, gait, facial recognition software, Government-sponsored troll factories, and cyber-attacks.

The Working Group also pointed out the lack of human rights due diligence in the trading and use of technologies by states and corporations. They also expressed a need for a stable regulatory mechanism to ensure independent oversight, comply with international human rights law, and offer effective remedies in matters where human rights principles have been disregarded.

Members of the Human Rights Council are to discuss the report on 27 September. Before an agreement on a stable regulatory mechanism takes place, the UN Working Group has recommended implementing a moratorium on the export, sale, transfer, use, or servicing of privately developed targeted and mass surveillance tools, including spyware, facial recognition, and similar programs.