16th September 2021: The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has urged member nations to halt the sale and use of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) systems until the “negative, even catastrophic” dangers they represent are addressed. These comments were made in response to a new report on the subject released in Geneva, which warned of A.I.’s potential impact on “right to privacy, right to a fair trial, right to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, and right to life.” The report and Bachelet’s statements are pretty significant following the incident involving Pegasus earlier this year. Pegasus spyware, linked to its manufacturer, the Israel-based NSO Group, was used to target thousands of phone numbers and dozens of devices belonging to international journalists, human rights advocates, and heads of state.
A.I. technology can significantly impact various industries and areas of life, including education, work, social care, health, and law enforcement. A.I. has the potential to provide significant opportunities for promoting human rights in a variety of sectors. For example, by delivering more individualized schooling and assisting senior citizens living a dignified life at home. While the advancement in A.I. is a great accomplishment, it is essential to take the potential risks it bears into consideration. Big data and artificial intelligence may jeopardize the right to equality, the prohibition of discrimination, and the right to privacy. These rights can serve as checkpoints for the exercise of other fundamental rights and personal and political liberty. Bachelet addressed the issue as well, noting that while A.I. “can be a force for good, helping societies overcome some of the great challenges of our times, the harms it could outweigh the positives.”
Following the release of the report, Tim Engelhardt, UNHRC’s human rights officer for the rule of law and democracy department, described the situation with A.I. as “dire,” adding that it has “not improved over the years but has become worse.” Thus, the friction between A.I. and human rights is becoming more visible as technology becomes essential to our daily lives and the running of society. As a result, there must be a greater awareness of A.I. in the community, allowing people to learn about the operations of A.I. and its impact. Human rights will continue to be in jeopardy in this technological era unless appropriate measures are implemented to help protect society’s interests.