Afsaneh Rigot is a researcher focusing on law, technology, LGBTQ, refugee, and human rights issues.
Her broader work pose questions about the effects of technology in contexts it was not designed for and the effects of western-centrism on vulnerable and/or hard-to-reach communities. They also look at how the power-holding corporations can be constructively engaged with, highlighting the need for effective corporate responsibility, harm reduction, and user and community-centered research.
Currently, she works with ARTICLE 19 on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regional human rights issues with a focus on LGBTQ rights and corporate responsibility. She is an advisor to the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard Law School and is on boards and committees of a number of human rights initiatives. She regularly appears and writes in media and news outlets covering for human rights and technology issues with a focus on highly marginalized populations, as well as general privacy and security topics.
She was a 2021-2022 fellow with the Technology and Public Purpose (TAPP) at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
She is the founder of the methodology and concept “Design From the Margins” (DFM) which uses her experience and knowledge in implementing company change with those most impacted by tech at the center. The method looks to redefine how we design our major communication tools and technologies through a methodology that requires a departure from structures and design processes that focus on the “main use cases.” DFM has been implemented and used for privacy and safety changes in major companies impacting millions of users, and applied in academia, industry, and civil society processes.
Based on her Berkman Klein Centre (BKC) fellowship project (2019-2020), Afsaneh continues the work and research she designed and led on security issues for LGBTQ communities who use dating apps and social media tools in the MENA region. Her research at BKC focuses on how these apps are used for evidence-gathering by state actors targeting LGBTQ groups. Afsaneh explores the admissibility of evidence within the prosecution process, researching which evidence gathered through apps becomes the most detrimental to users, resulting in charges brought against them. Through understanding these patterns in courts, the goal of her research is to identify ways of mitigating these risks for LGBTQ individuals, increasing acquittal rates, supporting legal teams, and ascertaining (and advocating on) what changes apps need to make to better protect vulnerable users. Her reporting and research on this have been landmark works that have led to subsequent works, documentaries, advocacy by international agencies such as the UN, and major corporate safety changes.
The collaborative work and research on the wider project have been collaborating, educating, and calling on businesses and tool developers to understand how their tools become implicated in human rights abuses - especially when designed without understanding all of the contexts in which they function and communities they function in.
Previously, her legal work has also focused on environmental protection, access to information. and refugee rights, including for immigration detainees.