Financial and ID Technologies

UN calls to halt sale and use of artificial intelligence

17 September 2021
Until safeguards are in place, AI applications that can’t follow human rights laws should be banned, according to the UN. Source: AdobeStock

The United Nations Human Rights Office (UNHRO) this week called for a moratorium on the sale and use of artificial intelligence (AI) systems due to the risk to human rights.

Michelle Bachelet, commissioner for UNHRO, said until adequate safeguards are put in place, AI applications that cannot follow international human rights laws should be banned.

“Artificial intelligence can be a force for good, helping societies overcome some of the great challenges of our times,” Bachelet said. “But AI technologies can have negative, even catastrophic, effects if they are used without sufficient regard to how they affect people’s human rights.”

The UNHRO published a report that details how profiling, automated decision-making and other machine learning technologies can impact the right of privacy and other rights of humans including health, education, freedom of movement, freedom of peaceful assembly and association and freedom of expression.

“Artificial intelligence now reaches into almost every corner of our physical and mental lives and even emotional states,” Bachelet said. “AI systems are used to determine who gets public services, decide who has a chance to be recruited for a job, and of course they affect what information people see and can share online.”

The UN report said AI has resulted in:

  • Numerous cases of people being treated unjustly such as denial of social security benefits because of faulty AI tools or arrested because of flawed facial recognition.
  • Faulty, discriminatory or out-of-date data with information collected, shared, merged and analyzed in multiple and often opaque ways.
  • Long-term storage of data poses risks that could be exploited in yet unknown ways.
  • Biased datasets relied on by AI systems could lead to discriminatory decisions.
  • A lack of transparency by companies and states that develop and use AI.

“Given the rapid and continuous growth of AI, filling the immense accountability gap in how data is collected, stored, shared and used is one of the most urgent human rights questions we face,” Bachelet said.

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