Snakeoil AcademyAttend PyCon AU 2021

Technosolutionism and human rights

Lucie Krahulcova


Lucie is a professional activist and human rights researcher. She has spent the last five years working for Access Now, an international digital rights ngo working on defending and extending the rights of users at risk. There she campaigned for strong encryption, against the proliferation of targeted-spyware, and for strong government policies which empower and support individual rights and liberties in the online world. She has a background in international relations and security studies, and she's never lived in any city longer than 4 years.

Technosolutionism and human rights

Content Warnings

  • This talk contains extensive discussion of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • This talk contains brief mentions of protests, political violence and war-time events.

Governments around the globe accept technology as a one-stop-shop solution promising the future socially, economically... nothing that can't be improved or solved with a tech unicorn! But what are the costs that come with embracing technology as the solution to every analogue issue? The COVID19 crisis has laid bare the challenges of public trust, confidence and expectations that individuals have of technology. In this session we will look at how a perfectly tailored technical solution can impact individual's rights and liberties; and discuss the design parameters to mitigate such impacts.

Technosolutionism proves that we need a multidisciplinary approach to tech design. In this session we will use the latest examples of the COVID19 apps to illustrate how a solution can be technically perfect while being perfectly inappropriate as a solution to a given problem. We will work backwards from the location/data sharing/API changes which were happily adopted for covid apps to illustrate how/when those sorts of opportunities can be seized by governments and malicious third parties. We will cover the ways in which every dataset aggregated and generated is likely to be appropriated and abused. Why does that happen? How can we prevent that at the design stages? I will lean on my extensive history in the field to pull together examples where policy and agencies have grabbed at opportunities like this to seize additional power, and use it to highlight the urgency of addressing this issue as we go through the everyday. We can change the chaotic technosolutionism that happens by being better informed and better prepared to do our jobs with a critical eye.

The session should leave the audience with a broader understanding of the challenges posed by one-stop-shop-technosolutionism and the essential questions that we as participants in the tech space have a responsibility for baking into our thinking and decision making.

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