The U.N. Warns That AI Can Pose A Threat To Human Rights


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The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet speaks at a climate event in Madrid in 2019. A recent report of hers warns of the threats that AI can pose to human rights.

Ricardo Rubio/Europa Press Via Getty Images


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Ricardo Rubio/Europa Press Via Getty Images


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The report, and Bachelet’s comments, follow the recent revelation that widespread use was being made of spyware, known as Pegasus, to target thousands of phone numbers and dozens of devices belonging to international journalists, human rights activists and heads of state.

Bachelet acknowledged that AI «can be a force for good, helping societies overcome some of the great challenges of our times,» but suggested that the harms it could bring outweigh the positives. But she also warned of an «unprecedented level of surveillance across the globe by state and private actors,» that she said is «incompatible» with human rights.

«The higher the risk for human rights, the stricter the legal requirements for the use of AI technology should be,» she said.


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Upon the release of the report, Tim Engelhardt, UNHRC’s human rights officer, rule of law and democracy section, called the situation regarding AI «dire» and said it has «not improved over the years but has become worse.»

The document includes an assessment of profiling, automated decision-making and other machine-learning technologies.

This story originally published in the Morning Edition live blog.

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