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​Protecting rights in the digital era

Graphic: Report cover features two CCTV cameras

A new report by the New Zealand Human Rights Commission looks at the potential threats to privacy and equality posed by new technologies.

Rapid advances in digital technology, including the use of new analytical techniques to process large amounts of data, need to balance the benefits with risks to human rights, the New Zealand Human Rights Commission said.

Chief Commissioner David Rutherford acknowledged that applying algorithms to 'big data' was a valuable tool that could inform social policy and decision-making.

"But using big data like this also has implications for our rights to privacy and freedom from discrimination," he said.

Mr Rutherford's comments reflect the tensions outlined in Privacy, Data and Technology: Human Rights Challenges in the Digital Age, which provides an overview of the domestic and international human rights principles applying in New Zealand.

The Commission's publication is intended as a guide for those involved in advocacy, research or policy in this area, as well as those with a general interest in the issues.

Mr Rutherford said the right to privacy was especially at risk, and that without it individuals could not meaningfully exercise their right to freedom of expression and opinion.

Similarly, if left unchecked, public sector use of algorithms for predictive purposes, including identification of 'high risk' individuals, could lead to unfair treatment of individuals or groups.

"We have published this guidance as a contribution to the debate," Mr Rutherford said.

Date: 9 May 2018

Source: New Zealand Human Rights Commission

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  1. Report cover features two CCTV cameras - New Zealand Human Rights Commission