ISSN: 2582-3655

Author : Riddhi Kulkarni

Graphic Era deemed University

Co-Author: Siya Jayadevan

Graphic Era deemed University

Technological  Development and Human Rights.


“Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons”

Modern technology goes hand in hand with human rights. Also, they have penetrated so much into our legal environment that they are bringing out new ways to approach traditional human rights and have themselves created rights of their own. With the rapid escalation of the technological prowess, the global concern to erase off the impediments lying in the path of Human Rights is also experiencing a rise. The intersection of Technology and Human Rights is an interesting area to ponder upon. In the modern era, it is important to throw light on and seek answers to the following questions :

  1. What is the relative strength of good or evil has done on Human Rights ensuingTechnological escalation?
  2. Is the new technology causing any damage to Human Rights or is it in anyway arresting Human Rights?
  3. Can we humans accept the sporadic mobility in the arena of Human Rights and related law when Technology is advancing at such a rapid pace.
  4. Is technology causing more ill effects rather than good with respect to Human Rights?
  5. How can we develop systems which would integrate the Tech field andHuman Rights and arrest the ill spells of Technological Advancements?

The paper seeks to address the above questions. The researchers have attempted to critically analyze and examine the aftermath of Technological advancements and its impact on Human Rights in particular. The study follows a Qualitative approach based on a meta-analysis. The study finally concludes that Technological growth should occur with Human Rights as the core. In no form should the Human Rights be violated. The paper thus suggests that it lies in the best interest of a nation to have a system which could monitor and erase the ill done by Technological Development.

Introduction :

Technology can either be a bliss or a curse. This, however, depends upon the human potential to harness the optimist or dark side of the technology. Robust technological growth is seen as a driving force which is causing some grave threats to Human Rights. It has aggravated Human Rights issues too much of an extent and has set into play a new challenge of protecting Human Rights in the digital era.

                              The adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948  has proven to be a great gift to Humanity for years together. The efforts of the members of the Draft Committee has just created one of the marvelous documents which are cherished by humanity in the present times and will continue to be cherished for the times to come. The creation of the Magna Carta report was governed by the fundamental ideology of ensuring the humane treatment to all regardless of religious orientation, age, sex, color, religious beliefs, financial background, etc. The immense potential, strength and the importance of this document cannot be overlooked as it resulted in the formation of liberal societies. The creation of liberal societies provided a framework for creating national policies with Human Rights at the core.

                                     Since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, a stage has been set which accepts zero tolerance of the impediments lying in the path of Human Rights. With the birth of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the world has experienced a greater magnitude of awareness in this regard. The world has seen the emergence of Human Rights Activists, trade unions, organizations and systems which cannot stand a single injury to Human Rights.

                 In the modern times, however, a question that is seeking the attention of  Human Rights Activists, trade unions, organizations is that is the Legal Environment doing enough to keep up to its promise of safeguarding Human Rights or has the Technological escalation blinded and cuffed us all to its

clutches? This is of particular concern because the recent decades have seen some unprecedented changes in technology which is driving us crazy. On the contrary, the legal systems have not shown development which catches up with the pace of Technological escalation. The legal systems tend to be cumbersome and this very nature of the legal systems is seen as a cause of worry due to its inability to arrest the damage caused to Human Rights.

                                       Preventing the infringement of Human Rights and proposing possible remedies and action plans in an era which portrays a gigantic Techno infrastructure is fast catching eyeballs of people associated with Human Rights Organizations from all around the globe. Time demands to redefine Human Rights in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Literature Review :

Rapid upward mobility is observed in the arena of Technology while at the same time a stagnancy or relatively less mobility is seen in the legal field which attempts to shield Human Rights from any kind of external harm. As mentioned earlier, this drastic alteration in the Technological field has grabbed the attention of Human Rights activists from all around the world. The following pinpoints the prior studies in this regard :

A World Economic Forum Report published in December 2017, pointed out the pleasant and detrimental effects of changing Technology on Human Rights.

The report laid emphasis on the core sectors like Internet, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of things, big data systems, etc. It provided a brief on how Artificial Intelligence is hampering the right to fair and decent work. The rapid growth of Automation and AI is likely to affect 85% of jobs in customer service based interactions. The next is the Internet which has the dual potential of either enhancing or degrading the right to free speech and expression. The internet access is not evenly distributed thus hindering the right to equality. The Internet also has the strength to disrupt the social institutions of a country. The report has brought out the example of the 2016 Presidential elections in the US where ‘fake news’ was much in discussion. A privacy breach is another issue. Furthermore, the report also warned the potential threats of speech recognition devices which could secretly record the dialogues of households and send it back to the manufacturers, thus damaging the fundamental right to privacy. The report concluded on a note that molding the technological advancements in a way that would keep Human Rights at the center is the need of the hour.

Case study: Artificial Intelligence and the Judicial System

The case study held in Florida, US reported that increasing interference of AI-based decision making severely created bias and overlooked the rights of people to undergo a fair judicial screening. The year 2016 saw the testing of an algorithm ‘COMPASS’ by ProPublica which was used to determine the likelihood of an offender to recommit an offense. Compass assigned a score from 1 to 10 to the offenders predicting a possibility of recommitment of a crime. Around 5000 offenders were scored on the compass scale. The other factors that were taken into account were criminal past, gender and age patterns. It was observed that this algorithm produced biased results in racial bias in particular. Following this observation, questions were raised to test the reliability of COMPASS. The judges were asked to reconsider the application of this algorithm and to find out its limitations. The study concluded that decisions influenced by such algorithms needed to be reconsidered and the very usage and need of such algorithms were questioned especially in countries where people were already vulnerable.

The paper focused on how to protect the rights of human beings online like it is being protected offline. Understanding at the preliminary level is required if we look at new technologies from a legal perspective and it brought out that it has created a certain outcome on human rights. Although it is a bit complex to understand the relationship between new technologies and human rights.

It revealed two aspects :

First is the time dimension that is the gap between the technical progress and legal implementation procedures.

Second is the space dimension. The main focus was on the two basic human rights in order to analyze the behavior of new technologies when it interacts with human dignity.

Freedom of expression and alteration made in the digital era.

Right to presume innocent until guilty and the position of people under investigation. According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, there might be certain restrictions on the right of expression but only to an extent necessary or as stated by law. It emphasized on respecting the rights and reputation of others and protecting the national security, public order, public health, and morals. The two rights on which much emphasis was laid were, the most challenged human right on the online platform. There is also a certain contradiction which makes it a bit controversial. It appeared that is an inbuilt risk

between the relationship of surveillance technology and presumption of innocence because such instruments gave rise to the mechanism of stigmatization strengthening the belief that the person that is

involved in the proceedings should be necessarily included within the category of suspects.

According to the study, the increasing use of Artificial intelligence and automation is disrupting the global job markets and significantly impacting the right to fair and decent work. There is also a subset of AI which is Machine Learning that has been expanding rapidly, unlocking pathways to increasingly efficient, accurate and powerful processes ranging from diagnosing cancer to enabling self-driving cars. Data is the key ingredient that makes Machine Learning possible. The study pointed out the three ways that can protect human rights the interpretation of which has been comprehensively discussed in the discussion and analysis section. The study analyzed the effects of Cloud Computing and big data analysis and pointed out the trends with the help of these data and provide prior warnings for a critical issue before they occur. Furthermore, the report described the details of a workshop co-hosted by the World Economic Forum for civil society and technology companies at its Office of the High Commissioner for civil society and technology companies. It enlightened the historic collaboration of Human Rights and Microsoft to explore what human rights mean in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The report bid adieu with a call to action by Brad Smith, President of Microsoft, and ZeidRa’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. They made it very clear that the onus to create solutions that keep humans at the core of emerging technologies lies with business, civil society, policymakers, and technology companies.

Methodology :

The study has followed a qualitative approach and several independent studies in this regard have been studied to determine the current scenario.

Discussion and Analysis :

The contemporary scenario portrays that  Technology has disturbed the peace and pace of Human Rights Enforcement. The following part enlightens the core sectors of Technology causing this turbulence.  The World Economic Forum has identified twelve categories that demand the utmost attention. These are :

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Robotics
  • Computing Technologies
  • Virtual Reality
  • Multidimensional Printing
  • Internet of things
  • Energy capture, transmission, and storage    

Social Media and Right to Privacy :

In India, part 3 of the constitution under article 21 guarantees to all its citizens the right to personal Liberty. The right to privacy is now one of the fundamental rights. With the advancements in Technology such as social media platforms, the threats to our personal liberty come along. Once any kind of information is uploaded, it becomes challenging to take it off from the different social media platforms thus causing major privacy breaches and some people could also make undue the use of such information to blackmail anyone thus damaging once peace of mind.

Another means of potential privacy breach is through drones.

Right to Education :

One of the fundamental rights of every child is Education. Technology in a way is advancing this right of children. Several apps like Khan Academy, Byjus have come up that have made the learning process interesting for the children. BYJU’S is the largest learning app in India. The technological progress can be applauded for this very reason, however, there is another side to this. In the regions with no internet access, it further aggravates the problem of inequality

Children safety concerns and access to information :

Access to information on wide-ranging topics and the inability to precisely identify the users as adults or small kids is a problem delivered by Technological development that needs immediate redressal. Children are innocent and are not much aware thus they fall prey to all kinds of bullying on the internet. Online platforms have a tendency to harass the rights of children and young people sometimes causing mental imbalances and even death in some cases.

For example, The social network phenomena – ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ or the ‘Blue Whale Game’  that surfaced and remained active in many countries claimed the lives of so many innocent kids from all around the globe. This was an extreme case of Online shaming and cyberbullying and a horrendous threat caused by Technological escalation.

Another such example is the MOMO challenge.

Right to a fair trial and procedural fairness :

AI-based decision-making systems can either be used to enhance or degrade Human Rights. Proper implementation can shower significant benefits in the field of Public debate, making arguments and identifying the potential risks in public policies.  AI can also provide aid in the medical field by increasing the preciseness of diagnosis. Machine learning, when combined with Clinical information, opens up new avenues of improved public health and welfare.

Example; Oral surgery is done by a Robot in China.

This oral surgery performed on a patient by a robot depicts a significant move by China to address its the crunch of Dentists in the country. This very act extended the boundaries of technology and its applications in the public domain.

There however is a dark side to this. AI-based decision-making systems are not always reliable. They carry the potential to give biased results thus giving rise to social injustice.

Right to equality and non-discrimination:

In the eyes of law, every individual holds equal value and thus should not be prohibited from any of the rights or discriminated on any grounds such as religion, race, caste, sex, language, birth or another status. The right has both positive and negative obligation. It provides that the policies, laws, and programs implemented should not be discriminatory. The ease of collecting and interpreting the data through the use of modern technology can improve the socio-economic status of the people living in society. New technologies can also bring about a lot of advancement in the policies and programs related to health, education and related field which as a result would improve the socio-economic indicator.

Disability to access to any particular technology can bring about inequality. According to article 26 on equal protection of the law by ICCPR, it is applicable only to the actions of the government.

For eg. Antidiscrimination Law which safeguards people from any kind of harassment.

Security, Safety, and Right to life :

The technological advancements have certain merits as well as demerits in safeguarding our right to life. One such example can be traced out through the usage of drones.

Drones can either be used to transport blood at the place of a mishappening. On the other hand, it can also be used to carry explosives and fire weapons thus threatening the right to life.

The world has witnessed one such incident – The attack on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro while he was giving a speech.

Freedom of expression :

When an individual has the right to express his feelings, ideas or opinions without hurting the sentiments of others. With the advent of new technology, several platforms are introduced for an individual to express as well as communicate. But it does not possess any kind of restrictions, therefore, it might harm an individual in the long run. Also, the issue of privacy and security with social media has been a matter of concern.

Right to benefit from scientific progress :

Invention and innovation in the fields of science and technology have improved the quality of life of people in society. Scientific technology tries to bring about improvement to a large extent. Every individual must have access to the benefit of scientific progress. Technology is growing at such a rapid pace that now with just one click it is possible to meet an individual’s need with minimal efforts. However, efforts should be made in the area to A number of recommendations have been made by the Special Rapporteur to bring about more clarity in the right to benefit from scientific progress.

Freedom from violence :

Every individual has the right to be safe and be treated with dignity. The main aim of any country should be removing any form of violence. To uplift a nation first task should be the empowerment of its women. Violence can be of any form it may be gender/identity-based violence, domestic violence, forced labor, capital punishment.  New technology has so much potential that it has the ability to safeguard from any form of abuse or violence.

For eg. Women helpline numbers, All-in-one emergency helpline number (112) has also been launched to provide all the possible assistance, Emergency buttons while riding /traveling in OLA cabs, rickshaws.

Accessibility :

Accessibility is the act of making things easily available. New technology makes it convenient for an individual to access to services by providing it at the doorsteps. Easy accessibility at least and affordable prices also bring about equality.

This accessibility to technology can also create barriers for the one who is unable to access to the same maybe because of its design or its complex functioning.

Objectives :

  • To understand the hindrance of Technological advancements with a particular focus on the field of Human Rights.
  • To create awareness of the extensive need to accelerate the pace of development and policy implementation measures in the Legal field.
  • To bring about the importance of shielding the Human Rights in the digital era.

Conclusion :

. Welfare of the society as a whole should be encouraged and any kind of developments taking place  across the multiple sectors should not neglect this objective Managing systems should be developed by increasing the role  of the government in examining the interference of AI, robotics and other job automation techniques advanced by Technological progress which could have significant adverse impact on developing economies like India, which are already facing the problem of absorption of excess labor force. The use of technology should be shifted towards more effective uses which could actually help humans rather than causing them loses of any form (Eg: Job losses due to AI and machine learning ). It lies in the best interests of the citizens of a country to harness the positives of the Technological prowess and exclude the dark side of it by encouraging Legal advancements in this regard and developing systems which could monitor the implementation of these legal advancements.

Limitation :

  • There might be other possible threats to Human Rights which are presently undiscovered by the researchers.

Refrences :


  • Nice Paper and presentation. Triggers the thought process in many directions.
    “Can AI help the Judicial process to speedup the pile of pending cases ?”

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