Skip to main content

Gender, Technology & Law session: Petra Molnar on Immigration, Iris-Scanning, and iBorderCTRL

Location: Online
Add to personal calendar

The Gender, Technology & Law initiative is happy to announce a new series of online sessions to take place in October, November and December 2020. 

The first online session of the new cycle will be animated by Petra Molnar on 27 October 2020, 12:00-13:30 Brussels time. The introduction will be given by Prof. Dr. Gloria González Fuster.

Session description:

Immigration, Iris-Scanning, and iBorderCTRL: The Human Rights Impacts of Migration Control Technologies

Mandatory detention of migrants at the US-Mexico border. The wrongful deportation of 7,000 foreign students accused of cheating on a language test. Racist or sexist discrimination based on social media profiles. What do these examples have in common? In every case, an algorithm made a decision with serious consequences for people’s lives. Over 70 million people are currently on the move due to conflict, instability, environmental factors, and economic reasons and the situation in the Mediterranean is worsening. As a result, states and international organizations involved in migration management are exploring various automated decision-making experiments to increase efficiency and support border security. These experiments range from big data predictions about population movements in the Mediterranean, toCanada’s use of automated decision-making in immigration and refugee applications, to AI lie detectorsdeployed at European borders. However, these technologies are developed with little oversight, transparency, and accountability and often fail to account for the far-reaching impacts on human lives and human rights, resulting in potentially serious breaches of human rights and civil liberties. This presentation draws on my work in Canada and explores our current project highlighting the lived experiences of people on the move as they are impacted by this technological experimentation.

You can also check the 'Technological Testing Grounds' report. The latter is based on over 40 conversations with refugees and people on the move and shows that the high risk technological experimentation at the border occurs without adequate governance mechanisms and does not account for the very real impacts on people’s rights and lives. This report is part of a bigger project, the Migration and Tech Monitor. The launch event will take place on 10 November 2020, at 18:00 Brussels time.

Speaker's Bio:

Petra Molnar is a lawyer specializing in migration and human rights law. She is the Acting Director of the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law (IHRP) and the co-author of “Bots at the Gate: A Human Rights Analysis of Automated Decision-Making in Canada’s Immigration and Refugee System” with the Citizen Lab. She expanded on this work while at the University of Cambridge and is a current Mozilla Open Web Fellow working with the European Digital Rights Institute (EDRi) on the human rights impacts of migration management technologies.

Gender, Technology & Law Sessions:

This session is part of the Gender, Technologies & Law Sessions, a collaborative initiative of the Law, Science, Technology and Society Research Group (LSTS) and the Fundamental Rights Centre (FRC) at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. The initiative aims at investigating the intersections between gender, technology and law through an interdisciplinary approach. Outcomes of these investigations but also more explorative debates and open questions are presented in a series of seminars, both by internal and external speakers. For more information on the series, see here.

Next sessions:

  • Tuesday 24 November 2020, 12:00-13:30 Brussels time

    • Sara De Vido on online violence against women
  • Tuesday 15 December 2020, 12:00-13:30 Brussels time
    • Gianclaudio Malgieri on vulnerability and gender in data protection


The sessions are free to attend but registration is required. To register, please follow this link. Should you face any difficulties with your registration, please send an e-mail to Olga Gkotsopoulou (LSTS) or Carlotta Rigotti (FRC).

You can find the poster of the sessions here: pdf fileGTL Sessions October - December 2020 (328 KB) .

Logo of FRC