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Navigating the dataverse: privacy, technology, human rights

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This ICHRP Discussion Paper examines the human rights implications of the immense diffusion of data-gathering technologies across the world in recent years. It starts from the premise that the relevant issues, while much discussed, are not yet well understood and are evolving rapidly, both of which contribute to widespread anxiety. The Discussion Paper explores the roots of this anxiety and attempts to determine its sources and effects. It queries the degree to which data-gathering technologies pose problems that represent (or are analogous to) human rights threats and asks whether and how human rights law may help to assess or address those problems. The purpose of the Discussion Paper is to open up a set of issues for consideration by human rights groups and scholars and also to encourage those in the privacy field to think about human rights. It is intended as a platform for further investigation and research and, as such, is deliberately dilatory rather than comprehensive and conclusive. The paper indicates a number of areas where further research will be indispensable to understanding the full implications of current trends in information technology for human rights and to determine how those concerned by these impacts might orient themselves in the future. This paper lays the foundation for the next phase of our work on issues of privacy and data technologies.

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