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How Artificial Intelligence Could Be Violating Our Human Rights

Andy McHugh

5th November 2018

Recent and ongoing developments in the use of artificial intelligence in consumer goods and services has been highlighted as potentially unsafe, according to leading human rights campaigners.

Smart devices, social media and online companies are able to gather data on a large scale, to tailor their products and services to individuals’ needs. In most cases this is done with users’ consent, in the form of end-user agreements which must be accepted before use. But how many people actually read these agreements, or even understand their implications if they did read them?

It is claimed that software developers should take into account the far-reaching implications of the coding they use, so that human rights aren’t breached as a result. Algorithms used increasingly by both public sector and private companies use statistical evidence to “score” people as high or low risk regarding certain behaviours.

Insurance premiums are also calculated in just this way. However, young men in a particular postcode, for example, may be treated less favourably for car insurance prices, regardless of how safely they drive. The use of data in this respect clearly puts people who statistically fit into a certain category at an unfair disadvantage, where disadvantage by other socio-economic factors is already entrenched.

Not only is this a potential human rights issue (the right to be free from discrimination), but also more broadly a justice issue. In your exam, you may be able to make reference to issues such as this, in order to demonstrate a breadth of knowledge beyond the question that is asked.

You can read more about the issues regarding consumer goods and services in this article here:

Andy McHugh

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