It’s been a rough few months for tech companies with Facebook going under fire for data transgressions, and Google catching flack for a product demo gone sideways. If there’s a bright side, it’s their resiliency. That, and conversations about ethics have now proliferated in my design and tech communities, with everyone collectively agreeing not screw the user over.
To show the public that they take the user's protection seriously, Google took a big leap forward and created principles to govern the creation of Artificial Intelligence. It’s such a hugely important step for an organization, but I wrestle with why they opted to center their efforts on writing principles rather than outright stating user rights. Often, principles have the company’s best interest in mind, whereas rights are unapologetically focused on humans. You would think that any user-centric company would choose to focus on the latter, but it seems to be missed opportunity.
So, as a human-centered designer, I have decided to take aim and imagine a set of user rights for the digital world. To be fair, I’ve had a head start. In 1948, the United Nations published the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which I have read and adapted here:
Experiential Declaration of Human Rights (v1)
All human beings are equal in dignity and rights in the physical, digital and virtual worlds. They are endowed with reason and conscience.
All persons have the right to liberty, expression, security of person, and protection of their digital persona.
All human beings are to be respected as individuals and shall not subjected to forcible governance by artificial systems.
Unless consent is explicitly given, no one’s personal information shall be held hostage or in indentured servitude to another person, group, entity, corporation, or technology.
All human beings are entitled to equal protection from all hidden or malevolent artificial intelligence, and other harmful technologies.
No one shall be subjected to the arbitrary removal or quarantine of their digital personas, their digital properties, or their virtual worlds.
No individual shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with their privacy, home, digital properties, virtual property, human connections, or correspondence.
Everyone has the right to freedom of movement within digital properties and virtual worlds. All have the right to leave any digital properties and virtual worlds at any time.
Everyone has the right to create digital persona. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of their own digital persona, nor denied the right to change it.
Everyone has the right to own digital or virtual property. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of ownership.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and digital expression.
No one may be compelled to belong to an association, or remain on a platform against their will.
Our digital rights will always be a work in progress – rapid growth, innovation, disruption and even destruction force us to rethink the user's role in the way we design products. Determining these rights should not solely fall on the shoulders of tech companies, government organizations or individuals like myself, but rather on all of us working together to be transparent and relentless when considering the creation and implementation of new technologies.
Note 7/2: Like the title says, this is a work in progress. I will continue to update these as new information comes to light. Check back again soon(ish).