17 October 2019
Dr Ana Beduschi is a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Exeter, in the United Kingdom. Her research and teaching focus on international human rights law, technology (including big data and artificial intelligence), as well as international migration and refugee law.
Her recent publications analyse the impact of digital identity on human rights protection, the implications of big data for international migration and human rights law, and the relevance of the concept of vulnerability for the protection of migrant children’s rights.
She just started as Visiting Fellow at the Geneva Academy and will stay with us until December 2019.
A key aspect that motivated me to apply for the fellowship is that the Geneva Academy provides a unique forum for knowledge exchange not only within academia but also due to its interactions with international organizations, NGOs, experts and governments. I have long been familiar with the work of many of the academics and considered it a wonderful opportunity to be able to share ideas and develop my research here.
During my visiting fellowship, I will investigate the opportunities and challenges that Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms and related technologies present for state obligations under international human rights law (IHRL). In particular, I will focus on the rights to privacy, data protection, freedom of expression, non-discrimination and due process.
AI permeates many aspects of our daily lives. It powers the predictive policing tools used by the police to fight crime, the algorithms designed to improve health diagnostics, or the algorithms used to determine child welfare and support. Each of these examples has profound implications for human rights.
On the one hand, AI can be a powerful tool for states seeking to advance human rights protection. For example, AI algorithms can sift through vast amounts of data to establish patterns and predict behaviour. That can be useful in prioritising medical care or in identifying children who need urgent access to welfare and support. If correctly designed, AI algorithms can also enable police forces to target pockets of crime more efficiently and thus protect the life and safety of individuals.
On the other hand, if not correctly designed and applied, AI algorithms can lead to human rights violations. For instance, ill-designed predictive policing tools can cause discrimination based on race, ethnicity or gender. Privacy and data protection are particularly at stake when sensitive medical information or children’s data are used to feed the algorithms. So, the way these algorithms are designed and implemented can have a crucial impact on the states’ compliance with their obligations under IHRL.
My aims are primarily to advance the scholarship and inform policymaking in this area. Policymakers should be aware of the consequences for human rights protection when deploying AI solutions. There have been important developments in the field of ethics of AI recently. However, ethics is only one relevant aspect in this area. It is important to bear in mind that we already have a legally binding framework of IHRL, which should be taken into consideration regarding the application of new technologies such as AI.
I expect the fellowship will enable me to have the time to reflect and develop my research, but most of all I look forward to interacting with and learning from the Geneva Academy researchers, staff, and experts. I am grateful for the very warm welcome I received from the team on my arrival, and I am excited about the upcoming weeks.
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