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Human rights and the world today

Natural disasters and pandemics share certain characteristics.

We are unable to predict exactly when they will occur, but we can prepare for them, and react in a way that saves lives.

The next time an earthquake strikes, help could come from above in the form of a connected drone network.

A Nokia trial in Sendai, Japan showed how fleets of drones can monitor coastal and earthquake-prone regions and sound an alarm to evacuate if tremors or tsunamis are detected. If that happened, some drones could help guide people to safe zones, while others, equipped with thermal imaging cameras, could help rescuers find those trapped under rubble.

Why Sendai? Because it was where thousands of people sadly died in the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. The hope is that developing a network of connected drones has the potential to help save lives if disaster strikes again.

Drones can help deliver humanitarian aid and medicine, help prevent illegal wildlife poaching, and assist scientists researching climate change in the Arctic or the Amazon.

But they can also be misused to wage war, monitor protesters, and infringe on people’s privacy and human rights.

Every technological leap forward brings forth new questions and dilemmas for society to resolve. We are witnessing such a moment right now. Mobile apps and cellphone data have been used by countries to help trace and contain cases of COVID-19 coronavirus.

Each country’s approach has been different. But measures taken in the midst of a public health emergency may not have the same public support in normal times. So how to balance the use of personal data and an individual’s right to privacy is a question nations and individuals will have to ask and answer again.

These things are never static. When it comes to cellphone geolocation data and coronavirus, this is an existing technology applied in a new way, and in drastically different circumstances because of a global pandemic. Context is crucial, but some values and principles are unshakable.

At Nokia, we will never knowingly allow our products or services to be misused to cause harm. And we will never knowingly assist or enable the denial of human rights of anyone, anywhere in the world.

That’s not who we are. That is not what Nokia believes in.

Our values and principles are not just about compliance with the law, but how we conduct ourselves in everything we do. After all, staying true to who we are is why we are still in existence 155 years after we were founded, while many others have fallen by the wayside.

On human rights, we have four guiding principles that confirm our commitment to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and help shape how we put our principles into practice.

First: we believe that a more connected world is a better world, with the technologies we build helping to support human rights, free expression, the exchange of ideas and information, and economic development.

Second: we believe that a more open and ongoing debate across society is how we achieve the right balance between the benefits of technology and the right to privacy and security.

Third: we believe that companies, like ourselves, have a responsibility to ensure their products and services respect and promote human rights.

And fourth: we condemn the misuse of any of our technology to abuse human rights, and we will never support it.

Each year, we publish our sustainability report to assess how well we are doing in living up to our values and principles. We look at how Nokia has dealt with issues of ethics, transparency, corporate responsibility, sustainability, human rights, and other areas of our work that affect individuals, societies, and the environment.

While it is important to know how well we have done over the past 12 months, it is equally important to know how we can improve.

A large part of that comes from learning from others, and being open to external scrutiny. That is why Nokia is part of the Global Network Initiative (GNI), an alliance of international companies, human rights organizations, investors, and academic institutions, who work together to determine how technology companies can best respect the freedom of expression and privacy rights of their users wherever they operate.

Nokia is proud to be the first communications equipment vendor to have joined GNI as a member, and the only vendor to have Board status and be assessed under its rigorous standards.

The most recent GNI assessment report, published last month, found that Nokia: “employs distinct mechanisms to identify the risks to the rights to freedom of expression and privacy associated with the sales of its products and services.”

The independent assessors also noted that all Nokia employees are encouraged to report any ethical concerns, and there is a robust process in place to investigate such reports.

But as well as recognizing our strengths, there were also recommendations on how we could improve the risk assessment of still-developing technologies such as 5G and artificial intelligence.

Finding out how we can improve is as important to us as being transparent.

Striking the right balance between protecting fundamental freedoms and seizing the potential of new technology to save and improve lives will remain an ongoing debate.

And it is a debate that we welcome, because it is only by working with others, by listening to and learning from each other, that we can answer these tough questions together.

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokia using #COVID19, #humanrights, #TeamNokia, #technology, #5G, #GNI, #AI.

Rajeev Suri

About Rajeev Suri

During his tenure as Nokia CEO, Rajeev transformed Nokia into a leading technology company for a world connected by 5G and shaped by increasing digitalization and automation. Under his leadership, Nokia acquired Alcatel-Lucent, successfully expanded into enterprise vertical markets, created a standalone software business, and engineered the return of the Nokia brand to mobile phones.

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