Human rights officials called for limits on some uses of AI.
What’s new: Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, appealed to the organization’s member states to suspend certain systems until safety protocols are established and to ban those she believes may infringe on human rights. Her call coincided with a report from the UN Human Rights Council warning that automated systems for policing, healthcare, and content recommendation threaten rights like privacy, free expression, and freedom of movement and could limit access to health care and education.
Clear and present dangers: The report highlights documented hazards such as algorithmic bias, intrusive surveillance, and lack of transparency in AI. It argues that governments and businesses often deploy AI products without determining whether they pose risks to human rights. The authors call for:

  • A ban on systems that pose acute risks to human rights such as real-time biometric identification.
  • A moratorium on algorithms that determine a person’s eligibility for health care until regulations are in place.
  • Guidelines, independent oversight, and laws that protect data privacy.
  • Mechanisms such as explainable AI that would help rectify AI-enabled abuses of human rights.
  • Ongoing monitoring of AI systems for potential threats to human rights.

Behind the news: The UN report is the latest high-level call for rules that rein in AI’s potential for harm.

  • In April, the European Union proposed a similar system of bans and moratoriums.
  • Another recent report highlights how algorithmic recommendation systems spread disinformation on social media platforms.

Why it matters: The UN can’t force anyone to heed its recommendations. But strong statements like Bachelet’s backed by well reported data can bring attention and public pressure to bear on the intersection of AI and human rights.
We’re thinking: Voluntary restrictions and finger-wagging reports are no substitute for concrete legal limits. Meanwhile, the AI community — each and every one of us — can push toward more beneficial uses.

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