What is Artificial Intelligence?
The capacity of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks
typically associated with intelligent beings. AI systems function by ingesting
vast quantities of labelled training data, analysing the data for correlations
and patterns, and employing these patterns to predict future states. In this
manner, a chatbot that is fed examples of text chats can learn to produce
lifelike interactions with humans, and an image recognition tool can learn to
identify and describe objects in images by analysing millions of examples.
AI can be a force for good, assisting societies conquer some of the greatest
challenges of our time. However, it also poses a variety of threats to the same
society. A news report based[i] on this in Geneva also noted the high risks that
AI has on the society.
Why is AI harmful?
Given that AI offers the ability to process and analyse multiple data streams in
timely manner, it should come as no surprise that it is already being used to
facilitate global mass vigilance. The most widespread and risky instance of this
is face recognition software that employs AI.
Governments are looking to facial recognition software, despite its
imperfection, to monitor their citizens, enable the stereotyping of certain
groups, and even recognise and detect people[ii].
Algorithms have been used for a long time to generate credit scores and guide
loan screening[iii]. Nonetheless, with the rise of big data, systems now use
machine learning to integrate and analyse non-financial data points to determine
credit ratings, such as a person's place of residence, web surfing habits, and
buying decision. E-scores are the outputs of these systems; unlike traditional
credit ratings, they are completely unregulated. Sometimes these are
discriminative and incorrect.
AI has spawned new forms of oppression, which in many instances
disproportionately impact the most disempowered and vulnerable individuals.
Individuals and the organisations that reflect them have the language and
processes to contest the actions of more powerful individuals, such as nations
and corporate entities, thanks to the idea of human rights.
Human rights are universal and enforceable, and they are codified in an
international body of law. Government agencies and businesses are both expected
to respect human rights, although governments have additional obligation to
safeguard and accomplish human rights. Regional, international, and domestic
institutions and organisations provide well-developed structures for redress and
articulate the implementation of human rights law to changing situations,
including technological advancements.
Encroaching on the right to privacy and equality
The right to privacy is recognised as a fundamental human right by Article 12 of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 17 of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and several other international and
regional human rights instruments. Article 21 of the Constitution of India[iv] provides
for right to life which includes privacy. Privacy is a fundamental human right,
necessary for living with dignity and safety.
But in the digital environment,
including when we use apps and social media platforms, vast quantities of our
personal information are collected - with or without our knowledge - and can be
used to profile us and predict our behaviour. We provide information about our
health, political beliefs, and family life without understanding who will use it
and for what objective.
Article 14 of the Constitution of India[v] provides for equality before law. The
dearth of equality and diversity in the design of AI systems is thus a major
concern: rather than making our decisions more unbiased, they could reinforce
discriminatory practices by giving them the looks of objectivity. There is
growing evidence that women, ethnic minorities, disabled people, and LGBTQ
individuals are disproportionately affected by discriminatory methodologies.
AI as an instrument of discrimination and unemployment
Article 15 of the Constitution of India[vi] provides for prohibition of
discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. Ai
perpetuates discrimination without the knowledge of people. Pulse oximeters,
which quantify the extent of oxygen in the blood and have been an indispensable
tool in the clinical management of COVID-19, are less precise on people with
darker skin than on those with lighter skin[vii], as a recent study
Accessibility barriers can prevent older adults from participating in the
research, layout, and development of digital innovations. The ageist belief that
older adults are unable of using technology may also explain their absence from
technology design and development. Consequently, older adults and their points
of view are rarely incorporated into the development of artificial
intelligence[viii] and policy frameworks, financial support, and support
With increased automation and machine learning, we are able to design and build
vehicles that are capable of sensing their surroundings and moving in a safe
manner without or with minimal human intervention. These vehicles are autonomous
and do not require a human driver to move. Due to AI, electronic commerce will
undergo a profound transformation.
With robots navigating the space to collect
products and execute customer orders; to be sent or even delivered automatically
to customers using autonomous drones and cars. Consequently, reducing the need
for salespeople and network stores. Attaching AI-enabled devices to a patient's
body enables doctors to monitor the patient's health at regular intervals and
make the necessary decisions regarding the patient's health.
Therefore, a nurse
would not be required to monitor patients' health at regular intervals. Online
services such as magic bricks and 99 acres assist customers with property
searches, thereby reducing the need for brokers.
Article 23 of the UDHR[ix], Article 6 of the ICESCR[x] all guarantee the right
to work and protection against unemployment. Despite the fact that the rapid
growth of AI has transformed existing businesses and personal lives by
increasing the efficiency of machinery and services, this transformation has
also ushered in an era of unemployment as a result of the displacement of human
Encroachment of the right to freedom
Article 19 of the Indian Constitution[xi] stipulates the protection of
liberties-related rights. The use of artificial intelligence in surveillance
violates the right to privacy and chills the freedom of expression. Surveillance
of citizens around the clock increases their fear of being monitored and the
likelihood that they will not exercise their fundamental rights, such as freedom
of speech and expression.
The new tool for online harassment of marginalised and dissenting voices is
AI-driven digital robots. Digital bot accounts that are difficult to identify
pose as real users and send automated responses to recognised accounts or to
anybody who shares a particular opinion, thereby violating the right to free
speech. In numerous recent global elections, it has been argued that political
parties have used artificial intelligence to generate and spread false
information regarding their political opponents, thereby endangering democratic
values and demanding the concept of free elections.
Consequences of such negative impacts of AI on human rights:
With COVID 19 already causing a loss in the jobs of many people, new AI
inventions will only aggravate the situation further. Without regulation or
accountability, these corporations increasingly intrude on the lives of citizens
and violate human rights. From fostering discrimination to engaging in intrusive
surveillance, AI has proven to be a threat to equal protection, economic rights,
and fundamental liberties.
In order to reverse these trends, proper legal
standards must be implemented in our societies that are undergoing a digital
transformation. Urgently required are increased transparency in AI
decision-making procedures, greater accountability for tech giants, and the
capacity for civil society to contest the introduction of new technologies. 'AI
literacy' should also be promoted by investing in public awareness and education
initiatives that help societies learn not only about the operations of AI, but
also its influence on our daily lives.
Pegasus leak as an example:
Pegasus can be installed on victims' phones without their knowledge. They are
susceptible to tracking, eavesdropping, spying, and having their data
copied.[xii] The Pegasus software has re-entered the public consciousness after
the phone numbers of Indian politicians, journalists, and other prominent
figures were discovered on a leaked list of potential hacking targets. The
devastating impact that Pegasus spyware has or possibly could have on rights and
fundamental freedoms, such as the right to dignity, free assembly, religious
freedom, and even a person's physical and psychological authenticity, is of the
Due Diligence is the need of the hour:
Law enforcement, public safety, justice system, and border management structures
are increasingly integrating AI. The efficient protection of the right to
privacy and related rights is contingent on the legal, regulatory, and
institutional frameworks formed by states; this is a pressing need. The State
- Recognize the need to protect and strengthen all human rights as a
primary goal in the advancement, use, and governance of AI
- Expressly prohibit the use of artificial intelligence applications that
cannot be operated in accordance with international human rights law, unless
and until sufficient precautions are taken to protect human rights.
- Guarantee that victims of human rights violations and abuses resulting
from the use of artificial intelligence systems have access to effective
- Ensure that public-private partnerships in the provision and use of
artificial intelligence technologies are transparent, subject to independent
human rights supervision, and do not result in the abrogation of government
responsibility for human rights.
Artificial intelligence systems are transforming the way businesses and
governments operate across the globe, bringing with them the potential for large
violations of human rights. Data protection laws and protections for
transparency and accountability may be able to minimize some of the worst uses
currently known, but more work is required to protect human rights as AI
technology becomes more advanced and broadens into other sectors.
- In 2018, Australia unveiled a plan to connect its network of CCTV cameras
to existing facial recognition and biometric databases. The proposed measure is
pending in Parliament.
- Recently, Amazon has come under fire for directly marketing a facial
recognition product called Rekognition to law enforcement agencies for use in
conjunction with police body cameras, which would allow police to identify
people in real time. The product was piloted with police departments in Orlando,
Florida and Washington County, Oregon.