Volume 95, No. 4, Summer 2023
By Juan Ortiz Freuler [PDF]

A combination of political, sociocultural, and technological shifts suggests a change in the way we understand human rights. Undercurrents fueling this process are digitization and datafication. Through this process of change, categories that might have been cornerstones of our past and present might very well become outdated. A key category that is under pressure is that of the individual. Since datafication is typically accompanied by technologies and processes aimed at segmenting and grouping, such groupings become increasingly relevant at the expense of the notion of the individual. This concept might become but another collection of varied characteristics, a unit of analysis that is considered at times too broad—and at other times too narrow—to be considered relevant or useful by the systems driving our key economic, social, and political processes.

This Essay provides a literature review and a set of key definitions linking the processes of digitization, datafication, and the concept of the individual to existing conceptions of individual rights. It then presents a framework to dissect and showcase the ways in which current technological developments are putting pressure on our existing conceptions of the individual and individual rights.