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Risks to human rights inherent in technological advances

Opportunities and risks to human rights inherent in technological advances

09 May 2018: Rapid advances in digital technology, including the use of new analytical techniques to process data and inform decision-making, need to balance benefits with risks to human rights the Human Rights Commission says.

Chief Commissioner David Rutherford says applying algorithms to big data was seen as valuable for social policy and decision-making.

“This has the potential to produce great benefits and improve social outcomes. But using big data like this also has implications for our rights to privacy and freedom from discrimination.“

Mr Rutherford’s comments reflect today’s publication of Privacy, Data and Technology: Human Rights Challenges in the Digital Age which provides an overview of the domestic and international human rights principles applying in New Zealand. It is intended as a guide to assist anyone involved in advocacy, research or policy in this area, as well as those with a general interest in these issues.

He said the right to privacy was especially at risk, as without it individuals could not meaningfully exercise their right to freedom of expression and opinion.

Similarly, if left unchecked, public sector use of algorithms for predictive purposes, including identification of ‘high risk’ individuals, could lead to unfair treatment of individuals or groups. It is vital that such practices conform with human rights and ethical standards.

“We have published this guidance as a contribution to the debate,” Mr Rutherford said.


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