Are smart walls smart solutions? The impact of technologically-charged borders on human rights in Europe

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Kieran, Bronagh
Amorós Cascales, Fuensanta
Thomi, Laura
Veit, Meredith
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Global Campus of Human Rights
This article reviews new technologies on the external border of the European Union, and the human rights ramifications of these developments. It utilises a multi-disciplinary approach, writing on the emerging technologies themselves, their impact on vulnerable groups, legal developments relating to privacy, and the political context informing migration policy. The first part outlines emerging trends in border technology. The discussion relies on examples beyond the European Union to inform its analysis, including case studies from the United States border with Mexico. Technological developments considered include thermal imaging; biometric data; virtual reality; artificial intelligence; and drones. The second part explores how vulnerable groups will be affected by the collection of biometrics at the external border of the European Union. This part explores how algorithms, far from being objective arbiters, in fact are repositories for the bias of the manufacturer. The article postulates that to tackle the proliferation of bias, it is necessary to have a diverse workforce creating these systems. Third, the article addresses the regulatory framework on data privacy in the European Union. The significance of a right to privacy post-9/11 context is described. The conception of data privacy of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is set out. This part first analyses how GDPR has affected the processing and storage of data in the EU and, second, draws out the implications for the data of migrants. Special emphasis is placed on the concept of consent, and the ability of migrants to refuse the collection of their data is put into question. Finally, the article turns to the political context. Arguing that right-wing populism is not inherently opposed to new technologies, the article points to populists’ reliance on social media to garner support. Furthermore, it is advanced that the potential for migrants’ human rights to be impinged by new technologies is compounded by the influence of right-wing populism on migration policy. Key words: smart borders; surveillance; consent; privacy; biometrics; human rights; vulnerable groups; securitisation; technology; artificial intelligence
surveillance, privacy, human rights, security, technological innovation, boundaries, Europe, migrations, consent, European Union, data protection
B Kieran, FA Cascales, L Thomi & M Veit ‘Are smart walls smart solutions? The impact of technologicallycharged borders on human rights in Europe’ (2019) 3 Global Campus Human Rights Journal 173-209