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Study information

Technology and Human Rights Law

Module titleTechnology and Human Rights Law
Module codeLAW3173
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Professor Ana Beduschi (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Technology is a feature of our contemporary society: from our social media activities to GPS tracking on our smart phones; from online banking to the so-called smart homes; from biometric features on mobile phones to online shopping, digital technologies are increasingly present in our daily lives.

However, as technologies evolve, many legal issues arise in the field of the protection of human rights. For example, it is crucial to have our privacy and personal data protected also in the digital space, notably in light of the widespread state surveillance and cybersecurity issues.

In this module you will learn how human rights law responds to the challenges posed by new technologies. This module will enable you to acquire and deepen your understanding of human rights law, including the protection of privacy, data protection, freedom of expression, and due process in the digital age. You will have the opportunity to critically think about how the law should evolve to better tackle these issues, regulating innovation without hindering the development of new technologies.

No pre-requisite modules required. This module is recommended for law students. Knowledge of this area of law is a strong and desirable asset for students wishing to pursue a career in the private sector (e.g. information technology and law, human rights litigation etc.), NGO sector (e.g. human rights workers), and public sector alike

Module aims - intentions of the module

Living in a digital era offers many advantages for individuals and businesses alike. However, as new technologies evolve, a number of specific legal issues may arise. For example, are employers allowed to monitor employees’ text messages and activities on social media? Are states allowed to establish digital surveillance programmes based on bulk collection of personal data of all individuals in the name of national security? Is it possible to design privacy-compliant artificial intelligence? What are the legal avenues to rectify possible mistakes in the digital identification of individuals? Could big data, including social media data, be used for the protection of vulnerable individuals including migrants and victims of human trafficking? All of these questions and many more relate to the field of human rights law.

This module aims to give you the opportunity to assess how human rights law can tackle the issues posed by new technologies. The module aims to give you the necessary legal, theoretical and contextual background to understand topics such as privacy, data protection, freedom of expression, and due process in the digital age. Building on the case law of human rights courts, and in particular the European Court of Human Rights, the module aims to give you the opportunity to apply this legal knowledge to contemporary challenges. These include, for example, human rights obligations of technological companies, responsible innovation when it comes to artificial intelligence and automation, cybersecurity and the risks for human rights protection, digital identity and the protection of human rights.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate detailed knowledge of the protection of human rights law in the digital space, in particular of the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights case law on the topics covered on the module.
  • 2. Demonstrate critical awareness of a range of social and contextual implications of technology for the area of human rights law.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Integrate and assess relevant information from primary and secondary legal sources using appropriate interpretative techniques.
  • 4. Select, synthesise and critically assess human rights normative provisions and their application by courts.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Present, coherently and reflectively, relevant legal and theoretical arguments.
  • 6. Work independently, and manage time efficiently in preparing for scheduled learning activities, exercises and assessments.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

I. Foundations

  1. Introduction to technology and human rights law
  2. Privacy in the digital age 1 and 2
  3. Freedom of expression in the digital age 1 and 2
  4. Comparative approaches to data protection

II. Practical application & current challenges

  1. Technology companies and the protection of human rights
  2. Digital identity, blockchain and human rights protection
  3. Cybersecurity and human rights
  4. Big data and contemporary challenges
  5. Artificial intelligence and automation 

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities2211 x 2 hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities4.53 x 1.5 hour workshops
Guided Independent Study73.5Lectures and workshops preparation, to include advance reading and preparation of questions and activities
Guided independent study50Revision and assessment preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1,250 words1-6Individual written feedback; oral feedback upon request

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1002,500 words1-6Individual written feedback; oral feedback upon request

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay (2,500 words)1-6August/September reassessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Indicative reading list:

Ana Beduschi, ‘The Big Data of International Migration: Opportunities and Challenges for States under International Human Rights Law’ (2018) 49 Georgetown Journal of International Law.

Lee A. Bygrave, Data Privacy Law. An International Perspective (OUP, 2014)

Roger Brownsword, Eloise Scotford, and Karen Yeung (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Law, Regulation and Technology (OUP, 2017) – chapters 2, 18, 29, 30, 31, 39, 44.

Peter Carey, Data Protection: A Practical Guide to UK and EU law (OUP, 2018)

David Harris, Michael O'Boyle Colin Warbrick and Ed Bates, Law of the European Convention on Human Rights (OUP, 2018).

Christopher Kuner, Lee A. Bygrave, and Christopher Docksey, Commentary on the EU General Data Protection Regulation (OUP, 2018)

Clare Ovey and Robin C. A. White, Jacobs White & Ovey: The European Convention on Human Rights (OUP, 2017).

Susan Perry and Claudia Roda, Human Rights and Digital Technology (Palgrave, 2017)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Ana Beduschi et al., ‘Building Digital Identities: the Challenges, Risks and Opportunities of Collecting Behavioural Attributes for New Digital Identity Systems’ (2017) available at

Key words search

Human Rights Law, Technology, Data Protection, Privacy, Freedom of Expression, Due Process, Digital Technologies, Big Data

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date