IGF 2022 WS #416 Human Rights Centered Technology in Emergency Responses

Thursday, 1st December, 2022 (06:30 UTC) - Thursday, 1st December, 2022 (07:30 UTC)
Press Briefing Room

Organizer 1: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 2: Civil Society, African Group
Organizer 3: Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Speaker 1: Sherylle Dass
Speaker 2: Olga Cronin, Civil Society, African Group 
Speaker 3: Daniel Ospina Celis, Latin American and Carribean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 4: Martin Mavenjina, African Group 

Additional Speakers

Debate - Auditorium - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

1) What is the current status of COVID-19 surveillance measures and what has been their impact on civil society? 

2) How is transparency, accountability and temporariness of these measures ensured by the state authorities?  

3) What recommendations can we draw from the use of these technologies as emergency measures and how can we create stronger safeguards in their deployment? 

Connection with previous Messages: This session builds on several IGF 2021 messages, primarily the following one: Mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure that the rights-limiting measures put in place to cope with public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic are not prolonged indefinitely and become instruments of mass surveillance. During our session, we aim to formulate principles that would provide sufficient human rights guarantees when deploying technological solutions in emergency situations.



Targets: + 16.10 - not in the list above. Our proposal aims to bring at the forefront the principles of transparency and accountability of measures deployed by state authorities worldwide when facing public emergencies. If deployed, these measures should put in place appropriate safeguards that respect and protect fundamental freedoms, including freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression and access to information, and right to privacy. In our session we will aim to create a base for formulating principles that would ensure that these freedoms are protected in any future emergencies.


Surveillance measures and emerging technologies (including AI), each on their own, are powerful forces that shape policies and economies.  More than half the world’s countries enacted de facto or de jure emergency measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic which involved the use of emerging technologies. A significant part of governments’ emergency responses involved a rapid and unprecedented scaling up of their use of technologies to enable widespread digital contact tracing and surveillance. These technologies include mobile phone tracking, drone surveillance, biometric technologies such as facial recognition technologies, and data scraping/cyber patrols of social media for mentions of COVID-19 symptoms. Many of these technologies have been developed by and/or deployed in a non-transparent manner and/or without appropriate accountability and oversight mechanisms. These immensely powerful and now ubiquitous technologies have very serious implications for individual human rights – and for civic space more broadly.   

The European Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ECNL), the Mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in counterterrorism, the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations (INCLO) and Privacy International have been tracking the negative impacts of using surveillance technology in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic on individuals and groups. In particular, we documented how these measures can disproportionately impact members of vulnerable marginalized groups, especially racialised persons, women and gender non-binary persons, LGBTQ+, migrants and refugees, disabled persons, children and the elderly, and persons of lower socio-economic status. In this session, ECNL, together with partners from countries including Kenya, France, Indonesia, India, Colombia and South Africa who conducted the mapping, will present our findings. We will then seek further examples and feedback from participants joining online and in person and discuss the safeguards needed for the deployment of such technologies, including appropriate transparency and accountability mechanisms. Based on these discussions, we will formulate minimum principles which have to be respected when deploying such technologies in emergency situations. ECNL will use participants’ feedback to formulate an advocacy document, open for future input and collective action. 

Expected Outcomes

The session aims to bring together groups affected by COVID-19 surveillance measures and gather evidence regarding the impact they have had, and in some cases continue to have, on civil society. The participants will discuss the necessary and appropriate safeguards which must be in place when deploying such technologies and formulate minimum principles which must be respected in any future emergencies.  These discussions will serve as a basis for formulating an advocacy document, open for future input and collective action.   

Hybrid Format: 


How will you facilitate interaction between onsite and online speakers and attendees? 
We will have a moderated discussion onsite with some speakers joining online, too. We will invite all other participants joining online to share their experiences through the chat functionality. The dedicated section of the workshop to formulate minimum principles will be moderated and both online and onsite participants can come up with suggestions of the principles.  The participants joining online will be able to add their ideas directly in the tool, suggestions of participants present onsite will be inputted by the moderator. 

- How will you design the session to ensure the best possible experience for online and onsite participants? By using interactive tools, we will ensure that participants joining online will have an equal say with participants joining onsite. The tool will allow participants to add their suggestions also several days after the event to ensure that everyone had enough space to raise their ideas.  
- Please note any complementary online tools/platforms you plan to use to increase participation and interaction during the session. 

Miro/jam board

Please explain briefly how your session will approach diversity in a meaningful way referring to content, process and speakers 

We plan to involve speakers from different global regions to ensure geographic balance of the examples of surveillance tools. We also aim to give special attention to the vulnerable groups and look closer on the impact of surveillance technologies on them.  

Online Participation


Usage of IGF Official Tool.