This inaugural Bijou Lecture
features Susie Alegre, a leading human rights barrister at the internationally renowned Doughty Street Chambers, Founder and Director of the Island Rights Initiative.
Susie is a legal pioneer in digital human rights, in particular the impact of artificial intelligence on the human rights of freedom of thought and opinion. She is also Senior Research Fellow at the University of Roehampton.
The Bijou Lecture in a nutshell:
In this short lecture, Susie covers how human rights and data protection are fundamentally linked, and how small island jurisdictions like Guernsey have an important role to play in the evolving digital landscape.
This lecture was released to mark the first anniversary of the ODPA’s social initiative ‘Project Bijou
’ which aims to support and nurture positive cultural change around how people and organisations treat people’s data.
Only got 2 minutes? Here's some key points:
- Project Bijou is a journey, launched by the ODPA in 2021, to share experiences, perspectives, stories about data – encouraging better engagement and understanding of the critical importance of ethical data use. It is important to note that what we want is a conversation beyond the walls of the regulator. This is something that affects every one of us, so we need to try and involve as many people as possible. For the inaugural lecture in our Bijou series, we want to do something a little different – to give free rein to a prominent leader in the field of digital rights – to talk to us about their thoughts – encouraging us and also challenging us. We may only be a small jurisdiction but that does not stop us from building a community, an economy, a culture that is built on human values, on ethical data use. As our first speaker, international human rights lawyer Susie Alegre says, “sometimes small states can make huge leaps forward”.
- For Susie when she first read about Cambridge Analytica and the potential for political behavioural microtargeting (PBM) adverts in elections, that was her real lightbulb moment. Because while the discussions seemed to focus on whether there had been a data breach or a breach of election financing, the key to PBM is that it’s designed to get inside our minds. Susie comments, “When I first started looking at freedom of thought, there was very little written on it. There was some academic research that looked at the way that neuroscience might affect freedom of thought but there was nothing really looking at how big data might have implications for our right to freedom of thought. The right to freedom of thought is protected in international human rights laws in ways that many other rights are not.”
- Susie observes that one of the key things that could protect the right to freedom of thought is to look at banning surveillance advertising (SA). SA is not just about targeted adverts that know what you might be interested in buying. It’s a much more granular assessment of how you are feeling, what you are thinking, what might press your psychological buttons in order to sell you something, whether that’s a pair of socks or a politician. SA is the oil that fuels the big data industry.
- Susie articulates why better engagement with these issues is needed: “The biggest problem we have at the moment, it’s really a grave danger in my view, is apathy, disinterest, a sense of disconnect to these issues and more importantly powerlessness in the face of the sheer scale and speed of the datafication of our lives and of course the extraordinary power that especially big tech companies now have, mostly behind the scenes.”