Skip to main content

Study information

Human Rights and Digital Technologies

Module titleHuman Rights and Digital Technologies
Module codeLAWM155
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Professor Ana Beduschi (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Digital technologies raise many legal issues for the protection of human rights. In this module you will learn how international human rights law responds to these legal issues. You will acquire and deepen your understanding of the rights to privacy, data protection, freedom of expression, non-discrimination and due process in the digital age. You will have the opportunity to critically think about how the law should evolve to better regulate these technologies. Knowledge of this area of law is a strong and desirable asset for students wishing to pursue a career in the private and public sectors alike.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to give you the opportunity to critically evaluate how human rights law can tackle the issues posed by digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain technologies, and big data analytics. Examples of these issues relate to whether state authorities should be allowed to establish digital surveillance programmes based on bulk collection of personal data of all individuals in the name of national security; whether employers should be allowed to monitor employees’ text messages and activities on social media; whether privacy-compliant and ethical artificial intelligence is a possibility; whether there can be legal avenues to rectify possible mistakes in the digital identification of individuals using blockchain technologies; whether big data, including social media data, could  be used for the protection of vulnerable individuals including migrants and victims of human trafficking.


The module aims to give you the necessary legal, theoretical and contextual background to understand topics such as privacy, data protection (including the General Data Protection Regulation – GDPR), freedom of expression, non-discrimination and due process in the digital age. Building on the case law of international human rights courts, in particular the European Court of Human Rights, but also exploring relevant decisions and communications of the relevant UN Treaty Bodies, the module aims to give you the opportunity to apply this legal knowledge to contemporary challenges. These include, for example, human rights obligations of technology 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 deep and systematic knowledge and understanding of the legal principles and the core provisions of International Human Rights Law as applicable to the regulation of digital technologies;
  • 2. Undertake complex critical evaluation of the main legal rules, theories and concepts laid down by the case law of supranational courts;
  • 3. Identify, explain and evaluate legal problems posed by the development of digital technologies and critically relate these to the regime of international human rights law;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. Demonstrate detailed and comprehensive knowledge and understanding of a range of legal concepts, principles, institutions and procedures and the ability to evaluate systematically the relationships among them;
  • 5. Demonstrate deep and systematic knowledge and understanding of general principles of law and critical awareness of their contextual and political implications;

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 6. Communicate effectively, confidently and autonomously in a range of complex and specialised contexts;
  • 7. Work independently, effectively, 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

  • Introduction to technology and human rights law
  • Non-discrimination and due process
  • Privacy in the digital age
  • Comparative approaches to data protection
  • Freedom of expression online


II. Practical application & current challenges

  • Big data and the protection of vulnerable groups
  • Artificial intelligence and international human rights law
  • Biometrics, digital identity and human rights protection
  • Technology companies and the protection of human rights
  • Regulating new and emerging technologies

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 Activities1510 Lecturer-led seminars of 1.5 hours each.
Guided Independent Study35Reading assignments
Guided Independent Study50Preparation for formative assessments
Guided Independent Study50Preparation for the summative assessments

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1000 words1-7Individual written feedback (with 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
Essay1002000 words1-7Individual written feedback (with 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
Essay (2000 words)Essay (2000 words)1-7Referral/Deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Roger Brownsword, Eloise Scotford, and Karen Yeung (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Law, Regulation and Technology (OUP, 2017)
  • Markus D. Dubber, Frank Pasquale and Sunit Das (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Ethics of AI (OUP 2020)
  • Christopher Kuner, Lee A. Bygrave, Christopher Docksey (eds), The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). A Commentary (OUP 2019)
  • Clare Ovey and Robin C. A. White, The European Convention on Human Rights (OUP, 2020)
  • Susan Perry and Claudia Roda, Human Rights and Digital Technology (Palgrave, 2017)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Human Rights Law, Technology, Data Protection, Privacy, Freedom of Expression, Due Process, Non-discrimination, Digital Technologies, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence.

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date