How Artificial Intelligence is affecting our Human Rights

Dr Jyoti Ahluwalia, Associate Professor, School of Business, Sushant University, Gurugram


Artificial Intelligence (AI) are systems that work to act and take decisions like humans.  They are designed to solve problems and improve themselves and every day better and more efficient AI systems are getting developed. 

AI is already integrated in the very fabric of our daily lives.  This technology is now affecting and is being used in all areas of our lives such as education, work, social security and care, health sector, law enforcement, entertainment and travel.  Governments and businesses all over the world are deploying AI systems that help us decide what to buy online, it makes recommendations to us for purchase of furniture, clothes, movies and cars and all our purchases.  AI systems help us access personalised education, assist people in later years of their lives to lead dignified lives and assist differently enabled to help them enhance skills and add value in a host of our everyday decisions. 

AI systems gather data without our awareness

However, all these recommendations and help is possible only due to large amounts of data that AI is able to access about us from the systems that we use such as our smart phones, our computers and the internet, our data captured during use of sensor equipment and face recognition software. Every click we make on each website we visit, the amount of time we spend on each website and all other actions and decisions are captured. Most of our home systems like Alexa produce huge amounts of data and help AI systems to process the data to draw a picture of our lives and what and who we might be interested in, or where we want to go for a holiday. 

Predictions based on past unverified data impact human rights

The data is collected about our past history to make predictions about our future actions.  One of the big problems in this collection and use of data about us is that we don’t always know what data is being collected about us, who is collecting it and what is it being used for. 

So there are several issues that need to be considered as AI has the potential to violate and damage human rights.  The use of AI can threaten the our right to privacy, right to prohibition of discrimination, right to equality and other fundamental rights such as the right of personal and political freedom.

Data is not only being used to analyse our preferences for certain products and decisions but also to make interferences about our political and personal views.  These leads to AI making decisions whether we are eligible and suitable for joining a particular role in a job, about who gets and what amount of social security benefits and welfare measures and also about if we are potential and future threats to society.  In certain States in USA, AI is also predicting whether judges should grant bail to persons. 

AI systems are keeping record of each of our movements and so they are being used to predict who might need to be stopped by the police and whom to make bail sentence.  AI is thus being used to profile and predict behaviour of each one of us based on past and current prejudices and stereotypes leavings us no scope for future hopes of improvements in our behaviours and base our decisions on that.

Ethical and Legal Framework for design, development and implementation of AI needed

Another aspect of this data collection about us is that we are not aware of how, when and where this data is being collected and how it is being used.  This unawareness about the use of our data on our own decision making is creating a hinderance having serious consequences to our human rights.  This raises several questions:

  • Is data driven AI decision an objective measure of individuals?
  • Is the current AI system not reinforcing discriminations that already exists
  • What safeguards are being implemented during AI model design to transform society rather than reinforce past discriminations
  • What systems are in place to check the harm to human rights implications that go further to just data privacy rights and affect all our human rights.

AI systems can affect our identity and democracy but we are not yet completely aware about the full implications of its tremendous impact .  It is hence imperative that regulations and government surveillance framework should be build. Human Rights should thus be place at the heart of design, development and implementation of AI systems.  AI can have an impact on many human rights aspects such as :

  1. Right to freedom of speech
  2. Right to freedom of expression
  3. Right to freedom of peaceful assembly
  4. Right to Social Security right to work
  5. Right to equality and non-discrimination
  6. Right to life
  7. Right to freedom of thought Conscient’s religion or belief
  8. Right to free trial
  9. Right to privacy
  10. Right to freedom of association
  11. Right to education
  12. Right to benefit from scientific progress
  13. Right to health
  14. Right to freedom of movement
  15. Right to freedom of liberty and society

It is important that decisions about AI regulations and its impact on human rights are made with more urgency as not have the frameworks in place, the consequences will reverberate long into the future.  Several countries and European Union are making “ethical” framework for AI aimed at guiding the AI community for responsible development and use of AI.  However more work needs to be done.

Dr Jyoti Ahluwalia

About the author:

Dr Jyoti Ahluwalia is working as an Associate Professor of Data Analytics and Machine Learning at Sushant University, Gurgaon. She is also an Independent Board of Director at an NBFC in Gurugram.  She has over twenty years of work experience and has worked on various assignments in research, analytics and consulting. She has been teaching Analytics and Machine Learning for 5 years and has trained more than 1000 persons from several large MNCs including TCS, Tata Motors, KPMG and Goldman Sachs. 


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