Research Project

Human Rights, Big Data and Technology

About the project

Advancing Human Rights in the Age of Al and the Digital Society.

The digital age has brought about a global pattern shift in how we communicate, interact and organise our world. Everyday life generates colossal quantities of digital data that, once created, is scrutinsed by complex forms of analysis using algorithms, artificial intelligence and other digital tools. This in turn yields highly personalised insights about ourselves, our habits, desires and role in society.

Our project explores the challenges and opportunities that big data and artificial intelligence are bringing to human rights. We are researching whether fundamental human rights concepts and approaches need to be adapted to comply horizontally in the era of technological advancement and big data.

We plan to develop good practice guidelines, regulatory responses and solutions for the human rights sector to improve both enjoyment and protection in the digital age. Our key engagements fall mainly but not entirely into the categories: businesses, international human rights and humanitarian institutions and non-governmental human rights.


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What are the main questions we will answer?

The main questions we will answer are:

  1. What human rights concerns and opportunities are generated by digital technology including those using ‘big data’, artificial intelligence and algorithmic decision-making?
  2. Can the international human rights framework and institutions respond to deal with the challenges and opportunities presented?
  3. How do we effectively regulate the collection, storage, use, amalgamation, re-purposing and sharing of data by States and non-State actors?
  4. What remedies are needed and how can these be effectively developed and implemented?

The project

How long will the project run for? Beginning in October 2015, the project will run until September 2020. It is funded by a £5 million grant from the Economic and Social Research Council and £1 million from the University of Essex.

Our team

The project is housed within the Human Rights Centre, with multidisciplinary partners worldwide specialising in computer science, sociology, economy, law, philosophy, political science and sociology.



Meet our team
What does your digital footprint say about you?

Our project explores how your big data might impact your rights. Read our research case study to find out more about our project.

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Get in touch
Get in touch
Catherine Kent Human Rights Project Officer
Telephone: 01206 873879