HRBDT Weekly News Circular

By Katerina Hadjimatheou

Each week the Human Rights, Big Data & Technology Project, based at the University of Essex Human Rights Centre, prepares an overview of related news stories from the week. This summary contains news articles from 3 – 7 December 2018.

You can follow the HRBDT Project on twitter: @hrbdtNews.

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HRBDT Weekly News Circular

By Amy Dickens

Each week the Human Rights, Big Data & Technology Project, based at the University of Essex Human Rights Centre, prepares an overview of related news stories from the week. This summary contains news articles from 16 – 23 November 2018.

You can follow the HRBDT Project on twitter: @hrbdtNews.

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UN austerity and human rights report highlights Big Data risks in the UK

By Carmel Williams

Big Data and artificial intelligence are, perhaps surprisingly, a featured highlight in the UN expert’s report on extreme poverty in the UK. Technology is frequently proffered as a solution to poverty and other social rights failings (see for example the recent Astana Declaration on Primary Health Care). However, Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, focuses instead on its potential to erode democracy.

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An End to PFI/PF2- Implications for the Right to Health

By Amy Dickens

On 29thOctober 2018, Philip Hammond delivered a Conservative Budget declaring an end to austerity and outlining plans for a post-Brexit economy. Amidst his speech was the announcement that the government will finally end the Private Finance Initiative (PFI/PF2) on the basis of ‘compelling evidence’ that it does not deliver value for money or transfer risk to the private sector, as proclaimed by the Conservatives and their political predecessors.

Hammond also stated the government’s commitment to honouring its existing contracts. What the Chancellor omitted is the scale of the legacy PFI leaves behind; the 700 existing PFI and PF2 deals will cost the taxpayer an estimated £199 billion by the 2040s. These staggering costs, and the political opacity surrounding PFI, have attracted expert criticism and public outrage. I argue, however, that the PFI saga amounts to more than just an administrative scandal; it is an egregious violation of the rights of UK citizens. Continue reading

ALMA-ATA at 40: Its Values are Relevant to the Data Economy

By Carmel Williams

In 1978 when the Alma-Ata Declarationcalled on urgent action by all governments to protect and promote the health of all, primary health care was described as ‘essential health care, based on practical, scientifically sound and socially acceptable methods and technology made universally accessible … and at a cost that the community and country can afford to maintain…’. It was also, in the first paragraph, acknowledged as a fundamental human right.

Forty years ago, achievement of primary health care for all was seen to be dependent upon a “New International Economic Order”. The Declaration twice referenced the UN declaration adopted in 1974 that aimed to rebalance power (and trade) by restructuring some fundamentals in the world economy, and providing greater benefits and participation to poorer countries. In comparison, the Astana Declaration on primary health care, due to be released in October 2018, shies away from such bold comments and instead states its commitment to ‘enabling people and communities to pursue the knowledge, skills and resources needed to take care of their own health, including the use of digital technologies.’

Predating neo-liberalism, Alma-Ata made no mention of the private sector, or partnerships with business. Rather, it proclaimed that ‘Governments have a responsibility for the health of their people which can be fulfilled only by the provision of adequate health and social measures.’ In contrast, the 2015 founding document of the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs), identifies universal health coverage(not care) as an SDG, and stresses the importance of the private sector in the achievement of it, and in all other goals. “We recognize that we will not be able to achieve our ambitious Goals and targets without a revitalized and enhanced Global Partnership…bringing together Governments, civil society, the private sector…”. Similarly, the Astana Declaration states, ‘We have more partners and more stakeholders, both public and private, working toward common goals…’ downplaying the essential role of government in achieving primary health care for all, and not acknowledging human rights obligations of states. Continue reading

Big Brother Watch and Others v. the United Kingdom – Some initial thoughts

By Daragh Murray & Vivian Ng

On Thursday, 13 September 2018, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) handed down their decision in Big Brother Watch and Others v. the United Kingdom. This decision addressed the legality of the United Kingdom’s (UK) bulk interception programme, intelligence sharing, and the obtaining of communications data from communications service providers and was prompted by the 2013 Snowden revelations.

This is a complex decision which is likely to have significant ramifications for mass surveillance programmes. As such, it is too early to offer detailed analysis, and this post intends to highlight some of the interesting elements that we will be thinking over in the coming weeks and months. Our focus here is on the bulk interception programme.

For an excellent initial post on the implications for the UK’s Investigatory Power’s Act, please see ‘Big Brother Watch v UK – implications for the Investigatory Powers Act?’ at Cyberleagle. Continue reading