Technological advancement in the recent and coming years constitutes what is referred to as the fourth industrial revolution; fundamental alterations to the way people live, work, and relate to one another. This same technological progress has reenergised activists for gender equality and created space and tools for the fourth wave of feminism that seeks to empower women, mainstream intersectionality and utilises technology to mobilise the movement.
The strides that have been taken in technological progress are partly reliant on the masses accepting the trade-off between the convenience technologies facilitates and the compromises to privacy adjacent to that same convenience. The invasive nature smart technology can turn an innocent convenient technological solution into a weapon of surveillance and abuse in the context of domestic abuse and stalking. The marketing of private surveillance as a form of abuse calls for a question about responsibility to protect women from gendered abuse and if the narrative central to the second wave feminism ‘the private is political’, needs to be readdressed in this context.
Further, there are indications that a gender imbalance surrounding the development of the tech industry in the last decades has infused standard setting and norms contributing to a standardisation of static attitudes of gender equality. The fast pace of development and adaptation of Artificial Intelligence in particular raises concerns that in the context of gender equality, the fourth industrial revolution might cause a regression rather than advancement.
Dr. María Rún Bjarnadóttir is the Director for Internet Safety at the Icelandic National Commissioner for Police and the Vice Chair of the Icelandic Media Commission. She is a member of Grevio, the independent expert body responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention).
Her expertise lies at the intersection between technology and human rights and her professional experience extends to regulatory, advisory and policy roles in the fields of cybercrime, violence against women, human rights and internet law. She has advised NGO’s, governments, and public entities on issues of cybercrime, online abuse, gender-based violence, gender equality, freedom of expression and privacy. In her academic capacity, María has conducted research and designed and delivered modules that contribute to a nuanced framing and application of human rights online, notably through her award-winning research on sexual privacy online that underpinned comprehensive criminal and policy reforms introduced in Iceland in 2021.
María holds a B.A. and mag.jur. in law from University of Iceland, and a PhD in law from University of Sussex.