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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.


Publications

Mar 7, 2022

Digital Crime Scenes

The Role of Digital Evidence in the Persecution of LGBTQ People in Egypt, Lebanon, and Tunisia

Digital evidence has made it easier for law enforcement to identify, harass, and prosecute LGBTQ people...


Community

NBC News

Grindr sends Egypt users a warning after alleged entrapments and arrests

BKC Affiliate Afsaneh Rigot comments on the arrests of LGBTQ+ people in Egypt.

Mar 23, 2023
CBC

Designing tech for the most vulnerable users leads to better products for all, says researcher

BKC Affiliate Afsaneh Rigot is quoted discussing the need to design technology for the groups of people who are most marginalized and impacted by the design.

Feb 3, 2023
The New York Times

Big Tech Should Support the Iranian People, Not the Regime

BKC Affiliate Afsaneh Rigot and Kendra Albert write about Big Tech and how they should support the Iranian people. "Expanded services...are no longer hindered by sanctions…

Sep 30, 2022
Wired

If Tech Fails to Design for the Most Vulnerable, It Fails Us All

Afsaneh Rigot connects Telegram in Russia, Elon Musk’s Twitter plans, and threats to abortion access and safety...

May 15, 2022
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Design From the Margins

Centering the most marginalized and impacted in design processes—from ideation to production

This report outlines how Design From the Margins can be used to build technologies for decentered cases from the beginning of the design process…

May 13, 2022
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Don’t Call Us Edge Cases – Designing From the Margins

Afsaneh Rigot explains why Design from the Margins is necessary and salutary...

Feb 4, 2022
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Why Online Anonymity Matters

Afsaneh Rigot writes that requirements for real identities on the Internet pose immense safety and security issues — especially for marginalized persons.

Nov 9, 2021
BKC Medium Collection

Movement Lawyering for Alternative Futures

Five community members speak about their vexed relationships to the law

Jan 4, 2021
Washington Blade

Tech experts fear new US broadcasting chief could jeopardize LGBTQ Internet freedom

Afsaneh Rigot says internet privacy and security measures are critical safety tools

Jul 7, 2020

Events

Apr 12, 2022 @ 11:00 AM

Design From the Margins: Centering the Decentered

hosted by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

At the Belfer Center, Afsaneh Rigot discusses findings from the "Digital Crime Scenes" report with Jessica Fjeld, Jack Harrison-Quintana (Grindr), and Kathryn Harnett (WhatsApp),…

Mar 17, 2020 @ 12:00 PM

[Canceled] Tech and Human Rights

A Queer Dating Apps Case Study

This event has been canceled but may be rescheduled.