Privacy Unplugged: Balancing Technology and Human Rights

Author: Eekshitha Gutta, Second Year Law Student of B.A.LL.B. Lovely Professional University


The fine line between fundamental human rights and technology breakthroughs has become increasingly important in an increasingly linked society. As we make our way through the digital world, concerns about protecting privacy while using technology’s advantages come up. We will examine the complex link between technology and human rights in this blog, looking at both the problems and possible remedies.

What is Technology?

In today’s world, technology is the result of the dynamic interaction of scientific understanding, useful instruments, and creative processes. It includes a wide range of innovations that impact our day-to-day activities, from the tangible devices we use to the intangible algorithms controlling our online interactions. Every aspect of our lives is impacted by technology, whether it is the smartphone we carry around in our pockets, the artificial intelligence that analyses data, or the infrastructure that facilitates international communication.

Fundamentally, technology stands for advancement—the never-ending search for answers to problems, big or little. It gives us the ability to accomplish previously unthinkable things, but it also presents moral conundrums. We must balance this dual responsibility as we examine the complex link between technology and human rights—preserving individual liberty while maximizing its advantages. Some of the Key Aspects of the Technology are Innovation, Tools & Machines, Automation, Information and Communication, and, Data Processing.

What are Human Rights?

Human rights are essential privileges that every person has only by existing. All people are entitled to these rights, which are unalienable and universal, irrespective of their race, nationality, religion, or any other attribute. Achieving a balance between protecting individual rights and technical progress becomes crucial in the context of technology and privacy.

1. Right to Privacy: A fundamental component of human rights is the right to privacy. It includes the freedom of an individual to control their private life, communications, and personal information. This right confronts hitherto unheard-of difficulties in the digital age because of the widespread use of technology. It’s critical to strike a balance between the advantages of technical progress and the requirement to preserve privacy.

2. Freedom of Expression: One of the fundamental rights of individuals is the ability to freely express one’s thoughts, ideas, and knowledge as well as to take part in public conversation. Global communication has made this right even more possible thanks to technology. To strike a balance, though, requires tackling problems that might restrict this freedom, such as hate speech and disinformation on the internet and spying.

3. Right to Data Protection: People have the right to decide how their information is used, especially when technology gathers enormous volumes of personal data. By promoting data-driven innovations while protecting privacy, data protection laws and regulations seek to achieve a balance. To achieve this balance, transparency, consent, and accountability are essential.

4. Right to Access Information: People now have never-before-seen access to information thanks to technology, which enables them to study, participate, and make wise decisions. However, equitable access may be hampered by the digital divide. Technology balancing entails closing this gap and making sure that everyone takes use of the possibilities and information that the digital world has to offer.

5. Right to Anonymity: The freedom to express oneself without worrying about retaliation is facilitated by anonymity. Technology balancing is protecting anonymity while addressing issues with cyberbullying, online abuse, and illegal activity made possible by anonymity.

6. Right to Security: People are entitled to both physical and digital security. Through cybersecurity, monitoring, and encryption, technology improves security. Finding a balance between maintaining public safety and avoiding overzealous surveillance that violates people’s right to privacy is necessary, nevertheless.

7. The Right to Be Free from Discrimination: Technology must not support prejudice against people based on their gender, race, religion, or any other attribute. Promoting inclusion, preventing prejudice in algorithms, and guaranteeing equitable opportunity for all are all part of balancing technology.

Historical Aspect

  1. Technology

Technological developments and privacy issues have always crossed. Certain technologies generated concerns about secrecy and personal information even before the advent of the digital age. Ideas circulated quickly because printed materials were widely available. It did, however, also give rise to worries about the unlawful sharing of private data. Immediate long-distance communication was made possible by the telegraph. However, it also prompted concerns over the privacy of communications sent across wires. The telephone transformed communication, but it also brought out new issues related to privacy. Concerns arose around wiretapping and eavesdropping. Significant technical advances, particularly those in the area of monitoring, were made throughout the 20th century. Governments monitored communications throughout World War II using code-breaking devices, wiretaps, and other instruments. Discussions over how to strike a balance between privacy and security were spurred by these advances.

The internet and computers brought about a revolution in privacy dynamics. The 1970s saw a rise in awareness of data privacy thanks to personal computers and databases. Data management is guided by the Fair Information Practices (FIPs) standards. Encryption technologies became widely used in the 1980s, giving people the ability to safeguard their digital communications. Public access to the Internet began in the 1990s. As more people engaged in internet activities, privacy worries increased. Social networking sites and mobile devices made it more difficult to distinguish between private and public information in the 2000s. Artificial intelligence, biometrics, and security cameras are examples of modern technology that nonetheless influence privacy. It is still difficult to strike a balance between individual rights and technical advancement.

  • Human Rights

Human rights have a long history. Magna Carta, an English charter from the Middle Ages, guaranteed rights including protection from arbitrary arrest and due process. Individual rights, including privacy, were promoted by intellectuals such as Voltaire and John Locke during the Enlightenment (18th century). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a historic statement that the United Nations enacted in 1948 following World War II, highlighting the importance of fundamental rights for all people. Article 12 addresses The right to privacy is acknowledged in the Universal Declaration. “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy,” according to Article 12. The European Convention on Human Rights (1950) (ECHR) has impacted privacy legislation worldwide and expressly guarantees privacy (Article 8). Article 17 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees the right to privacy.

Advancements in Technology

In our globalized society, technology has a significant impact on how we live. Innovations have completely changed how people connect, communicate, and work—from cell phones to smart cities. This quick development raises an important issue, though: how to protect privacy while upholding human rights? Technological progress gives rise to a dilemma. On the one hand, we experience never-before-seen efficiency and convenience. However, our personal information is continuously gathered, examined, and valued. There is a clear conflict between technical advancement and privacy. Tools for surveillance are used by businesses and governments to support law enforcement and national security. Although location monitoring, biometrics, and facial recognition are important tools, their careless application might violate people’s right to privacy. Policies such as the CCPA and GDPR place a strong emphasis on responsibility, transparency, and user permission. These regulations seek to achieve a balance between protecting individual rights and fostering innovation.

End-to-end encryption is used by messaging apps like Signal and WhatsApp to protect conversations. Limiting communication accessibility to only those who are meant to see it, improves privacy. The Tor network routes internet traffic via many servers to allow anonymous browsing. Users’ identities are safeguarded and they are kept safe from prying eyes. Blockchain technology provides decentralized, unchangeable data storage that goes beyond money. It guarantees user control over personal data and has the potential to transform identity management. A decentralized web is envisioned by projects such as Solid. The data that users provide specific access to applications and services is still their own.

Devices and safe transactions can be unlocked using fingerprint and face recognition technology. Despite its convenience, worries about abuse and privacy continue. It is essential to guarantee fairness and openness in AI systems. Bias-free models shield people from prejudice and uphold human rights. From the beginning, engineers and designers need to incorporate privacy issues. Privacy should be given priority in default settings so that consumers are empowered to make wise decisions. It is crucial to spread knowledge about privacy dangers and acceptable practices. Users with more power can demand technology that respects their privacy.

Hindrance to Human Rights

While technological advancements have made life easier than before, they also seriously jeopardize human rights. Let’s examine a few of the major obstacles: The spread of monitoring technology puts personal liberties and privacy at risk. Unauthorized data gathering, face recognition technology, and widespread monitoring all threaten our right to privacy. Governments and corporations gather enormous volumes of personal information. This data is frequently utilized for manipulation, profiling, and targeted advertising. Our autonomy is undermined by the lack of openness and control over our data. Even if AI algorithms are strong, prejudice and discrimination might still exist in them. Biassed algorithms have the potential to violate human rights in the criminal justice system, employment, and lending by escalating already-existing disparities.

Not everyone has access to technology in the same way. The digital gap keeps underprivileged populations from reaping the rewards of technological advancement due to factors like geography, socioeconomic position, or educational attainment. Platforms and governments have authority over internet material. Overreach can stifle free expression and restrict access to information, even while certain limits are appropriate (such as those about hate speech). Cyber risks are evolving along with technology. Cyberattacks, identity theft, and data breaches jeopardize our security and privacy, violating our fundamental rights. Despite the enormous influence that tech corporations have, accountability measures are sometimes insufficient. It is difficult to hold these organizations accountable when infractions happen. Online anonymity is becoming less common. Because our digital footprints are traced, we are open to monitoring and possible danger. Biometric identification, DNA databases, and facial recognition all give rise to worries about possible abuse and violation of privacy. Striking a balance between privacy and security is difficult. Security precautions can occasionally infringe on people’s rights, creating moral conundrums.

National Policies

  1. Right to Privacy

National constitutions or legal frameworks should expressly recognize the right to privacy as a basic human right. With this acknowledgment, people are guaranteed legal protection from unauthorized access to their private life. It should be illegal for governments and other organizations to conduct widespread monitoring without a valid reason. It is crucial to strike a balance between the demands of individual privacy rights and national security. To stop arbitrary surveillance, there should be legal protections in place, including warrants.

  • Transparency and Accountability

Companies that gather personal information are required to be open and honest about their data policies. Users should be informed about data collection, processing, and storage through their succinct and unambiguous privacy policies. Organizations should be held responsible for data breaches. It is vital to have reporting guidelines and sanctions for improper handling of personal data. Trust between users and data controllers is strengthened by transparency.

  • Biometric Data Regulation

The usage of biometric information such as DNA, fingerprints, and face recognition—for identification and verification is growing. Policies ought to balance the needs of individual privacy protection with those of technical innovation. Biometric data should be collected, stored, and used following regulations. Before having their biometric information gathered, people must give their informed consent. It is important to have explicit policies regarding the usage and security of this data.

  • Cross-border data flows

Maintaining uniform privacy rules is critical when data moves across national borders. Cross-border data transfers should be covered by national policies. Sufficient security measures have to be implemented to preserve private data even during its transit outside the nation.

  • Ethical use of AI and Surveillance Technologies

The ethical ramifications of surveillance technology and artificial intelligence (AI) should be addressed by policy. It is difficult yet vital to strike a balance between the demands for privacy protection and security. Privacy rights should be protected when surveillance technologies, such as CCTV cameras, are used, according to policies. It’s crucial to have explicit policies on data access, retention, and supervision.

  • Collaboration with International Bodies

Participating in international organizations enables nations to work together on global privacy standards. A strong privacy framework may be established by exchanging best practices and learning from one another. Involvement in privacy standards debates helps to guarantee that national regulations follow international trends.

International Law

  1. UN Report on Spyware and Surveillance

The United Nations (UN) has drawn attention to the risks that contemporary networked digital technologies pose to human rights and privacy. These technologies may be oppressive even if they are effective instruments for monitoring and controlling people. The necessity of effective regulation founded on international human rights legislation and norms is emphasized in the study. It concentrates on three important areas: State agencies frequently misuse spyware programs, and convert cell phones into round-the-clock monitoring apparatuses. To stop spyware from spreading, immediate action is required.

This includes calling for a ban on using and selling spyware until sufficient security measures are in place. Strong encryption techniques are essential for safeguarding online human rights. States should refrain from utilizing techniques like backdoors or routine device scanning to erode encryption. Extensive monitoring is made possible by digital identification systems, biometric databases, and large-scale automated data collecting and processing. Governments are required to prevent the misuse of surveillance instruments and to notify the public about surveillance operations.

  • OHCHR Reports on AI and Privacy

The wide-ranging effects of artificial intelligence (AI) on privacy and related rights have been investigated by the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR). The papers emphasize how urgently sufficient protections must be put in place before AI technologies that pose major dangers to human rights may be sold or used. AI programs that violate international human rights legislation ought to be prohibited.


In conclusion, maintaining a careful balance between technology and privacy is still a major difficulty in our globally interconnected society. We must protect human rights while utilizing innovation as we traverse the digital realm. Our future course needs to be determined by frameworks of ethics, accountability, and transparency. Let’s work towards a time where privacy is fundamental to the advancement of technology, not an afterthought.


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