How Big Data Revolutionize Human Rights?

We are living in a data abundance world where every aspect of technology is becoming more powerful and multifunctional day by day. It presents us with a whole range of exciting opportunities and challenges as well. Humans are beginning to realize the impact and the change Big Data is bringing to how we live and communicate. The age of computers in a highly digitalized world has created humongous data and generates a plethora of information sensing devices, which at every second records data about its users. The amount and type of data which is collected and stored are unprecedented that helps to uncover patterns and correlations.

Big Data is acting as a catalyst in the global economy to help businesses, corporations and governments to identify trends, patterns, minimize risk and foster better decision making. However, there have been concerns with respect to privacy which acts as a deterrent to utilize individual data for the protection of human rights. It should be noted that the technologies that threaten privacy also provide opportunities for enhanced protection of human rights through better policies and documentation to influence resource allocations. The predictive power of these emerging technologies combined with big data will act an early warning signal and showcase real-time awareness of violations in human rights, crisis or any other vulnerabilities.

There are innumerable cases where these kinds of data have been put to human rights context. For instance, data analytics is being used to fight disease outbreaks in Uganda. The data is analyzed which is collected from the Health Management Systems in Uganda which consist of information on risk factors including population density, rainfall, population mobility etc. By tracking and analyzing data from various parts of the country with respect to rise in infections, coordinated responses, and help and be managed for new outbreaks. Similarly, at the height Ebola crisis, mobile phone records were released to trace the outbreak.  Another notable example of using Big Data for human rights constitute an example from Syria where data was used to predict and prevent human trafficking and slavery.

Not just this, technology and big data can be used to enhance the practical delivery of health rights. The global rise in connectivity and technology have revolutionized our homes, lives, cities. Smart devices and wearables collect valuable data which can be combined with traditional health records to observe a change in patterns which will be scientifically important. Analyzing medical records, patterns in drug side effect can be detected. There are also certain data sets that are controlled by private actors of Government and are not publically accessible. But the digital environment creates new vulnerabilities emerging from mishandling and cyber attacks. If not checked, these sensitive data can result in irrevocable harm, threatening the basic right to privacy and consent.

Constant monitoring of data sources promises to provide an unprecedented insight into obscured rights like sexual abuse, labor violations, human trafficking. Usage of personal data should be balanced in the light of conventions of civil and human rights. The extent to which data is collected and put to use should be minimal, reasonably necessary and monitored to prevent human right violations. It is a “no more, no less” mentality