Submission to the OHCHR Thematic Report to the United Nations General Assembly on Digital Technology, Social Protection and Human Rights

11 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2019

See all articles by Monika Zalnieriute

Monika Zalnieriute

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - Faculty of Law

Lyria Bennett Moses

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - Faculty of Law

Janina Boughey

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - Faculty of Law

Lisa Burton

University of New South Wales (UNSW)

Nayan Bhathela

University of New South Wales (UNSW), Faculty of Law, Students

Date Written: June 4, 2019

Abstract

This submission seeks to respond to the questions raised in the call for submissions by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights into his thematic report to the United Nations General Assembly on digital technology, social protection and human rights. We focus on the Australian Government’s controversial program of automatically calculating and recovering debts owed because of welfare over payments, known as ‘robo-debt’. We aim to sketch lessons to be learned from its originally flawed design and implementation in relation to government decision-making generally. We focus in particular on the Rule of Law, which is a core constitutional value in most established legal orders, including Australia. Our focus in doing so is on three core rule of law concepts that, we suggest, have the widest acceptance across political and national systems: transparency and accountability; predictability and consistency; and equality before the law. We suggest that the lessons to be learned from robo-debt for other areas of public policy and government decision-making focus on the alignment of automated systems with rule of law values, which ultimately hinges on the appropriateness of design choices.

Keywords: Technology, Social Protection, Robo-Debt, Automation, Algorithms, Government, Public Law, Rule of Law, Transparency, Accountability, Predictability, Consistency, Equality Before the Law

Suggested Citation

Zalnieriute, Monika and Bennett Moses, Lyria and Boughey, Janina and Burton, Lisa and Bhathela, Nayan, Submission to the OHCHR Thematic Report to the United Nations General Assembly on Digital Technology, Social Protection and Human Rights (June 4, 2019). UNSW Law Research Paper No. 19-41, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3399343 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3399343

Monika Zalnieriute (Contact Author)

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - Faculty of Law ( email )

Sydney, New South Wales 2052
Australia

Lyria Bennett Moses

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - Faculty of Law ( email )

Kensington, New South Wales 2052
Australia

Janina Boughey

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - Faculty of Law ( email )

Kensington, New South Wales 2052
Australia

Lisa Burton

University of New South Wales (UNSW)

Kensington, New South Wales 2052
Australia

Nayan Bhathela

University of New South Wales (UNSW), Faculty of Law, Students ( email )

Sydney
Australia

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