Human rights impact of Covid-19 technologies and the role of businesses

Part 1 - Lead Organizer


Contact Person

Rohini Lakshané

Organization / Affiliation (Please state "Individual" if appropriate)

Institute of Human Rights and Business





Economy of Residence


Primary Stakeholder Group

Civil Society


Part 2 - Session Proposal

Your proposal is for

Main Conference (Day 1-3)

Session Title

Human rights impact of Covid-19 technologies and the role of businesses


Inclusion Trust Privacy

Session Format

Panel Discussion

Where do you plan to organize your session?

Virtual / online

Specific Issues for Discussion

The Covid-19 pandemic has posed a fundamental challenge for governments: how do they reconcile respect, protect, and fulfil the right to health with the right to privacy? While governments can place temporary restrictions on some human rights, with tracing and tracking technologies, many decisions are being outsourced to the private sector. Companies in the tech sector often rely on their own policies, the laws of their own states, and the laws of the states where their technologies are deployed, leading to a hybrid outcome which does not ensure protection of human rights. This interactive session will shine a light on the privacy and surveillance concerns posed by Covid-19 technologies and the role of the private sector in developing safeguards to ensure privacy rights. It will also include insights from an analysis of dozens of tracking and tracing interventions deployed in 11 countries (4 of which are located in Asia) from IHRB’s forthcoming research report on the topic.

Describe the Relevance of Your Session to APrIGF

Governments have an obligation to trace, track, and treat individuals who are infected with the virus in order to prevent mass spread, and have relied on technological solutions. These solutions trace and track individuals’ movements, which can help governments understand the spread of the disease and develop policy responses as well as treatment. However, the technology also offers the state a powerful tool to impose surveillance on individuals, which can be misused in the absence of reliable protocols and robust data protection laws. And most governments do not have them, and most companies that develop the technologies are incapable of or unwilling to build safeguards in these technologies. In keeping with the APrIGF’s overarching theme of “norms, standards and frameworks” for Internet-enabled activities and interventions, this session will explore the role of the private sector in developing and implementing these safeguards. The speakers represent various stakeholder groups (private sector, civil society, research institutions). The participants will obtain a greater understanding of the role of the private sector in responding to the pandemic and in respecting human rights with reference to Covid-19 interventions.

Methodology / Agenda

Introduction by the moderator (5 min) Panel Discussion: The speakers will speak about aspects of the issue relevant to their respective area of work -- research findings, corporate practices, company and responses to government policies, challenges and so on. (25 min) Discussion with the audience: The moderator will guide this interaction and direct questions to the speakers as well as invite suggestions and comments from the audience. (25 min) Wrap-up and conclusion, by the moderator. (5 minutes)

Please provide 3 subject matter tags that best describe your session.

#Privacy #Covid19 #Surveillance


Moderators & Speakers Info (Please complete where possible)

Name Designation Organization Economy of Residence Stakeholder Group Gender Status of Confirmation
Moderator (Primary) Salil Tripathi Senior adviser, Global Issues Institute of Human Rights and Business USA Civil Society cis-man Confirmed
Moderator (Back-up)
Speaker 1 Rohini Lakshane Consultant Institute of Human Rights and Business India Civil Society cis-woman Confirmed
Speaker 2 Graham Greenleaf Professor of Law & Information Systems University of New South Wales Australia Academia cis-man Confirmed
Speaker 3 Irene Khan UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression United Nations Switzerland Intergovernmental Organization Confirmed
Speaker 4 Manisha Dogra Vice President Sustainability, Asia Telenor Group Singapore Private Sector Confirmed


Please explain the rationale for choosing each of the above contributors to the session.

Salil Tripathi is senior adviser (global issues) at the Institute for Human Rights and Business and is based in New York. He works on technology, human rights defenders, discrimination (including gender and LGBTI rights) and has led the work on the pandemic and its human rights impacts. He also curates a course on business and human rights at the University of Bergen and has taught at Cambridge, Ashoka, and other universities. He has been a researcher at Amnesty International and a senior policy adviser at International Alert. He has also published three works of non-fiction. Rohini Lakshané is a policy researcher and an engineer by training. She is one of the authors of IHRB's forthcoming report on the human rights impact of Covid-19 technologies. Her body of work encompasses diverse territories such as the application of technology and policy to solve issues of gender inequity and violence; A2K; patent reform; making tech spaces diverse and inclusive; and the cross-hairs of gender, sexuality and the Internet. She regularly speaks at regional, national and international events on these topics and more. She was the Director (Emerging Research) at The Bachchao Project (2017-21) and Program Officer at the Centre for Internet and Society, India (2014-17). Manisha Dogra is a business sustainability professional with extensive operational and strategic experience in Asia. Manisha is currently the Vice President, Head of Sustainability Asia at Telenor Group. Prior to this she was heading Telenor Group’s Supply Chain Sustainability and Human Rights functions globally. She has contributed in various roles within Sustainability across South Asia and Asia Pacific. Her experience has included setting up and operationalizing the Sustainability function in Telenor Myanmar before the commercial launch where she continued to grow and develop the responsible business framework with a focus on the supply chain while being based in Yangon (2013-2015). Irene Khan is a Bangladeshi lawyer and the United Nations Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression and opinion. She previously served as the seventh Secretary General of Amnesty International. Graham Greenleaf researches the relationships between information technology and law. His 2014 book, Asian Data Privacy Laws analyses data privacy laws in all 28 countries in Asia. He is Asia-Pacific Editor for Privacy Laws & Business International Report. He has completed numerous consultancies for the European Commission on data privacy in Asia-Pacific countries. He was an invited speaker at the ‘launch’ of the GDPR in 2018.