The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council has accepted the necessity of recognising emotion recognition technologies as an emergent priority in the global right to privacy in the digital age. The importance of this was advanced by Professor Andrew McStay of Bangor University and the Emotional AI Lab.
Emotion Recognition Technologies
Biometric and emotion data refer to intimate dimensions of human life. They provide cues about users’ mental states and about the body itself. Emotion recognition technologies have attracted many criticisms (for instance about unproven methodologies), but this is not preventing their deployment worldwide in everyday objects, services, and situations. Indeed, there is a rapidly emerging global market for data about emotions, with emotion recognition now of keen interest to the technology industry, and diverse sectors that perceive economic value in understanding our emotional and mental states.
You might encounter emotion recognition technologies in schools to monitor student’s emotion and quality of engagement; in call centres to track the emotional tone of callers’ and workers’ voices; in shops to profile customers’ emotions towards products; in cars to measure fatigue, stress and anger in drivers to generate voice alerts or mood appropriate music; and in security contexts for border control, policing and crowd control.
Influencing the UN Human Rights Council
The UN Human Rights Council has formally adopted the Resolution titled 'Right to privacy in the digital age.' In principle this an update of the UN’s understanding of human rights to better account for modern digital life, and questions of privacy raised therein.
With most States having adopted constitutions and other laws which formally protect basic human rights, this Resolution will be international in reach and influence, informing international treaties and law, and regional and national law.
The Resolution is the outcome of a 2014 report by the High Commissioner on the right to privacy in the digital age (A/HRC/27/37) and on presentations and discussions at an expert workshop that took place in Geneva in February 2018. It also includes insights from written evidence.
Bangor University’s Contribution
Andrew McStay was invited to, and participated in, the expert workshops in Geneva 2018 and submitted written recommendations. As a result, emotion recognition technologies have been recognised as an emergent priority, with recommendation 3 including ‘emotional recognition’ and need for ‘proper safeguards.’ Notably Professor McStay’s submission was the only one to include and address emotion and affect recognition.
Professor McStay leads the Emotional AI Lab, an international research group that examines the social and cultural impact of artificial intelligence technologies that function in relation to data about human emotion, moods and affective states.