Artificial intelligence plays a significant role in strengthening and transforming industries worldwide. Still, many businesses are wary of investing time and money into technology they fear will do them no good. The only path to technical progress is through risk and confrontation!
The global AI market may show a $190 billion market value in 2025, according to reports.
Companies developing digital contact tracing technology should consider both long and short-term repercussions for their inventions on human rights. This includes negotiating the use of such technology in a way that the development does not harm those impacted by it.
How Human Rights Law is Interpreted During a Pandemic
Artificial Intelligence can help you with everything from customer service to packaging design for products. It can help you improve operations and improve the bottom line. However, its use has much broader implications.
Digital contact tracing tools are being used and developed around the world with the goal of reducing the spread of COVID-19.
Several countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan quickly adopted digital disaster-response infrastructures after dealing with emergencies such as SARS and MERS. But France, UK, and the US are now following suit.
While the effectiveness of digital contact tracing apps is debatable, some early research suggests that it can help if adoption is widespread and part of an approach in which extensive testing occurs.
Let’s discuss the international human rights law, how the pandemic impacted them, and recommendations for companies seeking to design their technology in a way that respects these rights.
Human Rights Considerations
Digital contact tracing is an important way that governments and organizations can track the spread of viruses, which could potentially make advances in human rights. When considering whether or not to move forward with digital contact tracing, companies should do their best to consider potential benefits and drawbacks.
- Privacy rights: Much has been written about how digital contact tracing can infringe on the privacy of individuals. While some apps intrude significantly on an individual’s privacy, others are designed to be more voluntary and private by compiling data locally and anonymizing it in order to protect user identity. But even the best-designed systems do not prevent authorities and others from building privacy-violating applications or misusing data.
- Freedom of movement: Many governments have already a limited movement to stem the spread of the virus, which lessens some concern about freedom of movement. State-mandated lockdowns will eventually come to an end, but what chilling effect might digital contact tracing bring to our freedom of movement? Might authorities be tempted to use trace contacts information long after it is needed to restrict the movements of certain groups of people?
- Freedom from discrimination: Digital apps for contact tracing are not available to those without smartphones. As of June 2019, 81% of Americans have a smartphone, while 19% do not. Lower-income communities may not be as accurate in providing data, which is why digital contact tracing has the potential to worsen the socioeconomic divide. It will only be more severe between nations, with poorer countriess of lower smartphone adoption receiving fewer benefits from such tools.
Using the “Human Rights by Design” Approach
Companies are working to develop digital tools for contact tracing in order to stem the COVID tide, but work on this should be done with respect for human rights. A human rights impact assessment, which is becoming increasingly common in the tech industry, seeks to identify and assess how a brand’s product could impact potential adverse human rights.
The process should involve meaningful consultation with groups who may be impacted, including medical and research professionals, government representatives, and citizens whose rights may be impacted. For example, a company may take steps during development to reduce the risk of privacy infringement caused by digital contact tracing.
Companies would benefit significantly from the participation of board members who are focused on human rights (or ethics) during each step along a product’s development cycle. A human rights-by-design approach can help a company avoid adverse impacts from any digital contact tracing tools.