Human Rights and Technology Program

(Left to right) Keith Hiatt, Human Rights and Technology program director, works with students Hannah Bagdasar, Alec Konstantin, and Kevin Reyes.
(Left to right) Keith Hiatt, Human Rights Center Research Fellow, works with students Hannah Bagdasar, Alec Konstantin, and Kevin Reyes.

About the program

In 2015, the Human Rights Center launched a Human Rights and Technology Program. The program is currently focused on the following four initiatives (click on each to read more):

  • Advising the International Criminal Court — The program strengthens the technological capacity of the International Criminal Court in The Hague in various ways, including administering the Court’s newly created Technology Advisory Board.
  • Data Accountability Project — The project will apply quantitative analysis and deep disciplinary knowledge to data released through the California Attorney General’s Open Justice Initiative and will combine it with data obtained from other sources.
  • Human Rights Investigations Lab — The lab will develop forensic methodologies for investigations of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law using open sources and will integrate the new investigative techniques with the established legal requirements of courts and tribunals.
  • Human Rights and Technology Course — The course, which will launch in 2017, will give undergraduate students practical opportunities to use tech skills to advance human rights, but will also train them in the cultural, social, historical, and political dynamics of tech and rights.

 

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Advising the International Criminal Court

The program strengthens the technological capacity of the International Criminal Court in The Hague in various ways.

First, in 2015, program director Keith Hiatt spent ten weeks on-site with the Office of the Prosecutor, prepared a thorough assessment of the state of information technology at the Court, and identified areas where rapid, strategic intervention would yield results. Based on his findings, the Human Rights Center recruited six experts from the fields of software, security, analytics, and open source intelligence, and brought them to The Hague to share their expertise with Court investigators and analysts. Second, the Human Rights Center administers the Court’s newly created Technology Advisory Board.

We assemble law, technology, and human rights experts from around the globe to serve as board members, and facilitate annual meetings of the board. We continue to advise the Court on specific challenges related to law and technology and human rights. Based on the advice of the Human Rights Center and the board, the Court has developed a Technology Working Group and launched several initiatives, with personnel and resources dedicated to building the Court’s capacity. The board has also fostered relationships between the Court and strategic partners, public and private, in the world of technology.

 

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Data Accountability Project

The program expects to launch its Data Accountability Project in fall 2016.

The project will apply quantitative analysis and deep disciplinary knowledge to data released through the California Attorney General’s Open Justice Initiative and will combine it with data obtained from other sources. The program will recruit two postdocs, one an expert in data science and quantitative methods and the other an expert in a justice-related discipline like law, criminology, sociology, or ethnic studies. This cross-disciplinary team will work together with the Human Rights Center to hold the government accountable to the people of California by obtaining data through government partnerships, the Freedom of Information Act, open sources, and custom research. The team will perform context-driven analysis using rigorous methods, and will produce six public reports each year on topics of civic and social importance.

 

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Human Rights Investigations Lab

The Human Rights and Technology Program recently received a Berkeley Collegium Grant to launch a Human Rights Investigations Lab at UC Berkeley. 

The lab will serve two purposes. First, the lab will bring in experts from around the world to train students in cutting-edge techniques, using video, social media, and other “open sources” to investigate violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. These students, supervised by the Human Rights Center, will conduct actual investigations in real-world cases, and will document their findings both in court-ready formats and in more accessible reports.

Second, while some journalists and investigators (like Bellingcat, Storyful, First Draft News, and Amnesty International, among others) have pioneered the reliable use of these sources in journalism and human rights investigations, the field lacks a forensic methodology for integrating these materials into civil and criminal investigations of courts and tribunals. The lab will develop forensic methodologies for investigations of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law using open sources and will integrate the new investigative techniques with the established legal requirements of courts and tribunals. The lab will also serve as a hub for students, researchers, journalists, software engineers, and data specialists who are committed to using their skills in interdisciplinary teams to advance human rights.

Find out more about the  Human Rights Investigations Lab internships. 

 

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Human Rights and Technology Course

A grant from the American Cultures Engaged Scholarship program at UC Berkeley will support a new undergraduate course on technology and human rights. The course, which will launch in 2017 and fulfill the American Cultures requirement, will give students practical opportunities to use tech skills to advance human rights, but will also train students in the cultural, social, historical, and political dynamics of tech and rights. The course aims to instill in students an awareness of the roles of gender, race, and power in the development of new technology and the distribution of technology’s dividends. The course will also partner with the Open Source Investigations Lab, offering students additional opportunities to do real-world human rights work.