Skip to main content

Press releases Special Procedures

Privacy is key in processing personal data by AI: UN expert

16 October 2023

NEW YORK (16 October 2023) – Transparency will build trust and reliability in artificial intelligence (AI) and promote and protect the right to privacy, a UN expert said.

In a report to the General Assembly, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy on Friday (13), Ana Brian Nougrères said the omnipresence of AI in all activities and decision-making about people demand that the issue be examined, and measures taken to ensure that the use of AI is ethical, responsible and human rights-compliant.

“New technologies have always been great companions in our quest for development and progress,” Brian Nougrères said, “but they also generate a number of risks inherent in their use and evolution.”

"Transparency and explainability allow individuals affected by AI to be informed in a timely, comprehensive and clear manner about issues concerning the use of their personal information in AI processes and the possible consequences of the specific reasons behind such use,” she said.

“I urge States to view these guiding principles, laid out in my report, as a key structural part of every national legal system to enable citizens to exercise their rights, such as the right to due process and the right to a defence when faced with decisions made using AI tools or technologies,” the UN expert said. “Respecting fundamental rights and freedoms while mitigating the risks of misuse of personal information is crucial to safeguarding the right to privacy,” she said. 

Brian Nougrères’ report concluded that transparency demands clarity, truthfulness, impartiality and publicity of the decisions made using AI while explainability is the logic, method and reasoning for making decisions about human beings based on information, particularly personal data.
  
“Explainability and transparency are, of course, the opposite of obscurity, deceit and abuse of computing power, which are some of the symptoms of illegal and unethical processing that reflects a lack of respect for privacy and dignity,” she stated.

The UN expert urged States to promote ethical practices to ensure transparency in AI to mitigate the risks. States should incorporate the principle of explainability into national legislation to provide citizens with the tools to defend their human rights in the processing of personal data.

“Most importantly, States must support and facilitate education and digital literacy to enable citizens to better understand the concepts relating to AI and privacy,” the Special Rapporteur said.

ENDS

Dr. Ana Brian Nougrères of Uruguay is the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacyand she took up the mandate on 1 August 2021. A Professor of Law, Privacy and ICT at the School of Engineering, University of Montevideo and a Professor of Law, Data Protection and ICT at the School of Law, University of the Republic, Montevideo. She is also a practicing Attorney-at-law and Consultant on data protection.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms Sonia Cronin (+41 22 917 1543/[email protected] ).

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected]) or Maya Derouaz ([email protected]).
Follow news related to the UN's independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts

Concerned about the world we live in?
Then STAND UP for someone's rights today.
#Standup4humanrights
and visit the web page at http://www.standup4humanrights.org