Impact of Digital Technology on Human Rights

One of the major changes today is the advancement of technology and the growth of the digital world. Digital technology has been effective in promoting better communication, connectivity, and the generation and analysis of data globally. However, this growth has resulted in various challenges in the human rights for both adults and children (IZA, 2021). The digital world has over the years been debated regarding privacy, legal issues, and children’s rights. The major challenge has been to maintain and uphold human rights inside and outside of the internet, while still maintaining the efficiency of technology.

Impact of the Digital World on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Speech

Human beings have the right to freedom of opinion, an aspect that most internet users have hoped would be applied to internet and social media use. However, with the adoption of digital technologies, there have been limitations such as increased surveillance of the public, internet shutdowns, and limited access to information based on national security (IZA, 2021). Various governments have over the year limited access to the internet in their countries, in a bid to limit the information that the citizens can access and limit their use of the internet to share their opinions on critical issues (Siagian, Siahaan & Hamzah, 2023). Internet issues have been debated as a violation of the human right to freedom of expression and opinion.

Freedom of speech on the internet has also had its challenges, where social media platforms have provided avenues for users to spread misinformation and hoaxes (Siagian, Siahaan & Hamzah, 2023). There are limited regulations and controls on these platforms that prevent the spread of fake news. This was evident with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic where misinformation in the initial stages was rampant, and social media platforms did not have adequate measures in place to curb this misinformation. Moreover, these platforms have provided avenues for spreading and promoting hate and violence, where the anonymity of users provides the confidence to openly harass other users and advocate for violence against certain groups in society. This has resulted in an unsafe environment for many users that limits their freedom of expression due to the fear of harassment, violence, and intimidation from other users (Siagian, Siahaan & Hamzah, 2023). 

Impact on children’s rights and vulnerabilities

The advancement of technology has resulted in the challenge of perpetuation of discrimination among minority and vulnerable groups in society. Discriminatory issues such as gender bias, and race bias have been perpetuated by the rise of digital technology, where cyberbullying and hate speech have been widespread. Children’s rights are among the issues that have come up with concerns related to exposure to too much information, consent of children to be on social media platforms, and the potential dangers that children using the internet face. 

The privacy of children in the digital era has been affected by the exposure to the millions of users on the internet, and the concerns from anxious parents who seek to monitor the activities of their children on these platforms. Similarly, children face the risk of exposure or being victims of sexual abuse (Arnetta, Fathyasani & Suryawijaya, 2023). The sharing of images or access to the internet creates an online network where predators and pedophilia networks are strengthened. Some forms of abuse that children might face include the sharing of images online and ease of communication with strangers on the internet (Livingstone & Third, 2017). The censoring of information that children can access on the internet has been a measure placed by various governments. However, various companies have not implemented strict and foolproof measures to protect children from the dangers and risks of sexual abuse online. The UN has prioritized children’s rights to protection by the parents and the government, especially in matters of access to the internet. Even though access to the internet has been described as a child’s right, parents are tasked with prioritizing the right to protection before the right to connectivity and information. With the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation in 2016, the article stated that children under the age of 16 were required to have parental consent to access digital platforms (Livingstone & Third, 2017). This, as a result, banned younger children from social media sites, online gaming platforms, and other health forums online (Livingstone & Third, 2017). This has been effective in protecting children from the dangers of the internet, despite the argument that it is also a violation of their rights since they are also limited access to crucial information. Thus, the state and parents face the challenge of respecting children’s rights online and also protecting children from abuse and harassment online.

Social and Digital divide

 A major part of human rights today is the abolishment of discrimination and promoting a more diverse and inclusive society. However, with the advancement of technology, the digital world has become crucial in conducting day-to-day activities for the majority of the population, and also a means to interact with the economy and the government (Sanders & Scanlon, 2021). However, millions of communities around the world have limited to no access to the Internet including the elderly, Native Americans, rural communities, and minority communities (Sanders & Scanlon, 2021). This has created a social digital divide that perpetuates the various social political and economic disparities. Studies conducted indicated that with more access to the internet, there is increased political participation, while limited or no internet access results in less participation in civic matters (Sanders & Scanlon, 2021). Over the years, it has been debated on broadband has been categorized as a public utility, to allow equal disruption, access, and exposure to internet tools for all communities (Sanders & Scanlon, 2021). There are a few large corporations today that dominate the Internet market, which has made it increasingly challenging for distribution to all areas including rural areas (Sanders & Scanlon, 2021). Thus, the increased privatization of the broadband market has contributed to this digital divide globally. This digital divide eventually contributes to various issues such as a lack of individual empowerment, minimal community development, and lower economic growth.

Privacy violation

Privacy has been a major challenge with the rise of digital technology. For instance, passive data collection has been popularized, with minimal respect to human rights to privacy. Passive data collection refers to data collected from humans begin interacting with search engines, web browsers, or social media platforms (Brantly, 2022). Similarly, mobile phone owners have their data passively collected, where the movements of the individual can be tracked through their phones. Mobile phones provide geo-location data as the phones hit cell towers closest to their location (Brantly, 2022). As they move around, the phones hit different cell towers, which can them form a pattern of their movements during a specific time (Brantly, 2022). Such data has previously been used by law enforcement to determine if individuals were within the scene of crimes or to identify individuals who participated in protests. This has been deemed a violation of human rights, and thus police officers are required to seek warrants to get such cellular data from on suspects of crime.

Cell Tower

Privacy violation through passive data collection has also been debated with mobile phones collecting data on individual’s interests and likes, based on the stores they frequent, which in turn is used to analyze traffic patterns or movements or assess driving behavior among drivers (Brantly, 2022). Despite such a mechanism being designed to provide efficiency to mobile phone users, the data collected passively is utilized as big data to develop business efficiency and identify advertisements dissemination based on individual interests. This describes the loss of human autonomy, as users are not fully educated on passive data collection, and this data is used to condition human beings into certain repeated behaviors. The digital world violates the rights stated in Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: No human being shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with privacy, home, family, or reputation. The law provides such protections from these interferences (Brantly, 2022). Thus, in modern society, the human right to privacy has become a privilege, where one has to live a life away from, the modern digital infrastructures of technology, which also does not guarantee complete protection and safety. For instance, in countries such as China, the government has devised new ways to collect passive data from citizens, including those without social media or access to the internet (Brantly, 2022). The implementation of the facial recognition system in the country provides passive data from citizens for the use of the state. Data from this system can be utilized in unlimited ways that violate human rights. Similarly, there is limited regulation on how much data is utilized by big corporations as there are limited laws that govern and track the usage of such data.

 Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights Violation

Algorithms are a significant part of internet use where artificial intelligence is used to curate what users see on the internet or which individuals are identified or selected for certain opportunities. These forms of AI have been deemed to be unfair and lacking transparency which is problematic as it can project as a form of human rights violation (Rodrigues, 2020). Studies conducted have indicated that certain automated machines and services are not fairly applicable to users from different backgrounds, which can promote discrimination (Rodrigues, 2020). The lack of transparency with algorithms has been proven to promote discrimination in job allocation, loan application, approvals, and many other forms of benefits denied based on inaccurate Algorithm designs (Rodrigues, 2020).

Artificial intelligence has raised concerns about cyber security. AI is increasingly being used for surveillance whether on social media or other forms of surveillance such as facial recognition technologies (Rodrigues, 2020). This creates vulnerabilities as the surveillance is not disclosed to users, until after the damage is done. The use of these forms of surveillance has been attributed to increased discrimination and unfairness. For instance, law enforcement’s use of AI to police has resulted in consistent racial bias towards the minorities in the country, who are arrested and detained based on recommendations from algorithms (Rodrigues, 2020). This is a result of the use of biased and non-diverse data to design such algorithms. Similarly, other algorithms designed to operate in automated decision-making on employment, insurance, credit, and the criminal justice system have demonstrated the biased nature of AI.

The widespread use of AI has resulted in ease of content curation through AI by different users. However, the right of ownership for such intellectual property has been debated, as intellectual property rights are a major aspect of the UDHR Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 27 (Rodrigues, 2020). Moreover, the increased use of AI to promote violence, harassment, and abuse infringes on the human right to protection from such issues (Rodrigues, 2020). However, the debate on the ownership of data generated through AI continues, on whether the original owner of the data set from which the AI is fed is liable in harassment cases or the individual users who curate harmful content using AI.

Violation of the right to work

The global world has seen a recent and widespread use of AI and robotics in the workplace. This has created a global concern about the future of the workplace, the job security for workers, and the ethics of using AI to replace human labor (Rodrigues, 2020). Human beings have a right to work and to be compensated by their employers. However, with the use of robotics especially in the logistics, manufacturing, and procurement industries, there has been a reduced demand for human labor, job loss, and social security and compensation issues (Rodrigues, 2020). The loss of autonomy among workers has been a major concern where more machines are replacing human employees, resulting in social and economic issues such as poverty, displacement, and homelessness (Rodrigues, 2020). These issues violate human rights as human beings have the right to shelter, food, and clothing, as well as a right to work.

The ethical and moral issues raised by the advancement of digital technology in personal lives, professional lives, and social and economic lives have been debated. As technology advances, the risk of human rights violations increases globally. Thus, there is a greater need to develop and revise new human rights protection guidelines that ensure that human beings benefit from technology without any form of human rights violation. Similarly, the protection of vulnerable and marginalized communities including children and minorities is crucial, to alleviate the increased cases of child grooming, sexual abuse, online bullying, harassment, and violence toward such communities.


Arnetta, L. D., Fathyasani, G. A., & Suryawijaya, T. (2023). Children’s Privacy in the Digital World: A Review of the Law on the Use of Technology Child.

Brantly, A. (2022). Utopia Lost–Human Rights in a Digital World. Applied Cybersecurity & Internet Governance, 1(1), 1-19.


Livingstone, S., & Third, A. (2017). Children and young people’s rights in the digital age: An emerging agenda. New media & society, 19(5), 657-670.

Rodrigues, R. (2020). Legal and human rights issues of AI: Gaps, challenges and vulnerabilities. Journal of Responsible Technology, 4, 100005.

Sanders, C. K., & Scanlon, E. (2021). The digital divide is a human rights issue: Advancing social inclusion through social work advocacy. Journal of Human Rights and Social Work, 6(2), 130-143.

Siagian, R., Siahaan, L., & Hamzah, M. I. (2023). Human Rights in the Digital Era: Online Privacy, Freedom of Speech, and Personal Data Protection. Journal of Digital Learning and Distance Education, 2(4), 513-523.

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