Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) conducted its “Sixth National Conference on Privacy: #PrivacyIsARight” on December 7, 2019 in Islamabad to discuss issues relating to artificial intelligence, and algorithmic decision-making in the context of privacy rights. The event was supported by one of our key partners, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.
The keynote address was delivered by former senator Faratullah Babar. He noted that “the conference was particularly timely given the Prime Minister’s digital Pakistan initiative which currently lacks a perspective on privacy and human rights.” He also said that the University of Balochistan incident demonstrates that the impact of privacy violations is gendered and disproportionately impacts minorities.
The conference featured the Glass Room Exhibit which featured interactive installations such as “The Zuckerburg House”, “The Empire”, “A Data-Day”, “Fake or Real” and “The Real Life of Your Selfie” which were supported by Tactical Tech as part of its global exhibit. This was accompanied by a theatrical performance which dramatised data manipulation of lived experiences and the impact that it has on society. Nighat Dad, the Executive Director of DRF, said that the conference “aimed to contextualise issues of privacy from the perspective of gender, marginalised communities, and interdisciplinary approaches through the use of art and discourse”.
A panel discussion on the topic “The Future of Tech: AI and Algorithms in the Context of the Criminal Justice System & Social Justice” was conducted to tackle the issue of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and algorithmic decision-making from a human rights perspective. The panelists included Dr. Maryam Mustafa, Dr. Muhammad Nadeem, Rahma M Mian and Aleena Alavi. Dr. Maryam Mustafa said that “AI has an intimate relationship with patriarchy and racism. Initial tests of voice and facial recognition software found that women and people of colour found it nearly impossible to use these features as the software could not ‘recognise’ them.” Academic and writer, Rahma Mian, pointed out that “the idea of development should not be more technology; we need to be able to rethink technology and its harmony with development and advancement of society.”
The event also included a vibrant debate on the proposition “This House Believes That (THBT): Sentencing by judges should be delegated to algorithms”. Oves Anwar (RSIL), Mujtaba Hussain (KPITP) and Usama Khilji (BoloBhi) spoke in favour of the motion. A team of Malaika Raza, Aniqa Arshad and Zoya Rehman argued against the proposition. The debaters spoke about the structural problems with the justice system, human bias, reformative justice and biased data sets. Oves Anwer spoke about the inherent biases that humans are socialised into and how technology can be a tool to neutralise structural injustices that manifest themselves in judgments. The opposition team made the argument that technology tends to replicate and exasperate societal exclusions and the use of algorithms in sentencing cannot fix the larger problem of inequality in society. At the end of the debate, the audience voted in favour of the proposition.