30 Jun 2020

European NHRIs make submission on fundamental rights implications of Artificial Intelligence

ENNHRI has contributed to the European Commission’s White Paper on Artificial Intelligence (AI), which sets out recommendations for a rights-based development of AI in Europe. The submission highlights the key human rights issues in relation to AI and the pivotal role of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in ensuring full respect of the human rights of all people in the EU

As digital technology becomes an ever more central part of people’s lives, it is vital that their fundamental rights are respected. Through their wide array of functions, NHRIs are already playing a crucial role in monitoring fundamental rights in EU members states. They should be equipped with sufficient resources, powers and – importantly – expertise to prevent and assess fundamental rights violations and effectively support those whose rights are affected by AI.

In particular, European NHRIs underline that:

  • All fundamental rights are affected by AI. Therefore, any fundamental rights-based approach to AI should take into account the potential impact on the full range of rights, and not be limited to data protection, privacy and non-discrimination;
  • A fundamental rights-based approach to AI is key. Unlike typically voluntary ethical frameworks, they are underpinned by legal regulation, where the responsibility for protecting rights rests with the state;
  • Fundamental Rights Impact Assessments are key to assessing risk and should be conducted prior to the deployment of an AI-system. Drawing on established good practice from other fields, they should also be repeated on a regular basis post deployment;
  • The use of so-called high-risk AI technologies such as facial recognition and other investigative tools (“predictive policies”) by law enforcement agencies raise serious human rights concerns and has led to calls for an immediate moratorium on the sale, transfer and use of surveillance technology until a human rights-compliant regulatory frameworks is in place;
  • All states entering into contractual relations with a company need to ensure its compliance with the UN Guiding Principles of Business and Human Rights and standards related to data protection;
  • It is essential that the tracking apps adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic meet international human rights standards of necessity and proportionality and ensure input of those most marginalised whose rights to life and health can be impacted by lack of access to digital tools internet and knowledge;

ENNHRI aims to work with European NHRIs and AI experts and develop a working tool for NHRIs (and other human rights defenders) on human rights-based approach to AI. The tool  will build on work of the Council of Europe Ad Hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence, where ENNHRI has its observer status and an Equinet report on the topic, as many NHRIs are also National Equality Bodies.

» Download the statement

» Learn more about European NHRIs’ work on economic and social rights