Disrupting Technological Innovation? Towards an Ethical and Legal Framework
The datafication of society is an undeniably global phenomenon. Throughout the world, citizens, governments, business, and organizations make choices that are profoundly affected by practices employing digital technologies with which information is collected, processed, stored, and exchanged. Digital technological innovation brings tremendous benefits. Yet it can also deeply disrupt existing markets, consumer behaviour, and public decision-making in such a manner that the changes undermine ethical and legal frameworks.
Building on the phase 1 project (2018), the research platform further investigates the perspective of ethics and fundamental rights governing the life cycle of new digital technologies, algorithmic decision-making, and surveillance techniques. The ethical governance of digital technology and surveillance is not merely a matter of protecting the individual actors from government interference with privacy. Private actors also need to be held accountable. As the UN’s Special Rapporteur David Kaye articulated in his report entitled ‘Surveillance and Human Rights’, in the development and use of digital surveillance tools, public and private sectors are ‘close collaborators’.
While the reliance upon digital technology and algorithmic decision-making is a global phenomenon, ethical and normative challenges that such reliance brings vary depending on political and sociological contexts. Furthermore, the ethical and normative implications of digital technology and surveillance cannot be considered separately from existing gaps in economic, political, and social foundations among states and within a state. Such gaps can sustain the structure of exploitation in the digital age and, simultaneously, preserve gaps in awareness and understanding about digital ethics and human rights, including the right to privacy. In this sense, our platform takes part in facilitating much-needed ‘society-wide conversations’, as urged by the Report of the UN Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation. The Panel highlighted the need for ‘society-wide conversations about the boundaries, norms and shared aspirations’ for the uses of digital technologies.
The research platform organizes events in collaboration with wider societal stakeholders from industry, regulatory agencies, and NGOs. The research platform also collaborates with the Hersenvredebreuk project on brain hacking and brain jacking, as a follow up on phase 1 research on the Dutch Law on Intelligence and Security Services.