Director, Technology and Human Rights

Human Rights Watch
  • Location
    San Francisco, California
  • Sector
    Non Profit
  • Experience
    Mid Career / Advanced
  • Apply by
  • Posted
    Mar 19

Position description

Human Rights Watch (HRW) advances human rights worldwide. We investigate wrongs, expose the facts, offer solutions, and challenge those with power to respect rights. We collaborate with people claiming their rights, learn from partners, and engage the public. Human Rights Watch upholds the freedoms and defends the protections that promote dignity, equality, and justice.

Our approximately 500 staff based in more than 50 countries conduct research into human rights abuses, publicize our findings, and advocate for change; we raise money to sustain our work, ensure our security, and manage a complex operations environment. 

That mission is as urgent as it has ever been, and it faces complex new challenges. We must contend with the failures of governments to meet their obligations on water, land, education, social security and food. We must respond to conflict and crisis on an extraordinary scale, and we must confront climate change, the persistence of repression, the resurgence of authoritarian populism, and the effects of extreme poverty and deepening inequality around the world. Rapidly advancing technologies, such as artificial intelligence and big data analytics, can compound these threats to rights and help to mitigate them. Innovation, efficiency, and diversity are critical to our success in meeting these challenges, and to delivering sustained impact. 

HRW’s guiding principles include independence, accurate and fair fact-finding, an impact orientation, and engagement with partners. Our core internal values include transparency, diversity and inclusion, learning and trust, safety and resilience, and accountability.


Position Overview

Human Rights Watch is seeking an experienced and forward-thinking leader to oversee our newly created Technology and Human Rights division, which will investigate and advocate against the role of technology in human rights abuses globally and promote its use to advance human rights. This involves overseeing and supporting experienced staff who cover the impacts of technology on a wide range of human rights, including freedom of expression, privacy, socio-economic rights, and issues such as platform content regulation, encryption, surveillance, and the use of artificial intelligence in the workplace, welfare systems, and criminal justice.

A key priority is how technology implicates the rights of specific populations, such as women, racial, ethnic and religious minorities, older people, children, LGBT people, human rights defenders, and those living in poverty.

The Director should be an experienced people manager and a persuasive communicator and advocate with a deep knowledge of current technology-related challenges, and an eye toward emerging issues. They are expected to develop, in collaboration with our experts, a strategic plan for research and advocacy that advances rights-protective policies with governments and companies.

The Director is responsible for ensuring the production of research, communications, and advocacy materials that can promote and defend technology-related human rights globally. The person is responsible for the day to day management and supervision of the division’s staff, setting priorities, overseeing and guiding research plans, editing research products, communicating publicly, raising funds, managing risk, and ensuring the security of staff, information and partners.

They will also be responsible for ensuring that the division supports staff in other parts of the organization who take on research and/or advocacy on technology-related human rights issues.

The Director will demonstrate the ability and commitment to foster the safety and resilience of staff, to promote diversity and inclusion, to build consensus around confronting key challenges, and to ensure the highest research standards in a culture of learning, trust, teamwork, and collaboration.

The Technology and Human Rights Director reports to the Program Office. The position could be based in any of Human Rights Watch’s major offices.



1. Provide leadership for the new Technology and Human Rights Division and develop its vision, strategy, and priorities in collaboration with a team of motivated and experienced researchers, experts and advocates by setting programmatic priorities and overseeing research and advocacy on technology-related human rights issues; 

2. In collaboration with internal and external partners, oversee and develop global research, communication, and advocacy plans that address major technology-related abuses, their underlying causes and emerging trends or challenges. Ensure that plans include clear goals and benchmarks, and that they align with the broader strategic plan and programmatic priorities of the organization;

3. In collaboration with the Business and Human Rights Division and other programs, develop strategies for technology-related research and advocacy on the private sector;

4. Encourage and support colleagues across the organization to incorporate issues related to technology and human rights into their work; 

5. Ensure the highest possible research standards, including thorough vetting of research and media products, overseeing rigorous implementation of internal fact checking guidelines, developing innovative research methods, and ensuring that the division’s research meet a high ethical standard;

6. Collaborate with the Chief Technology Officer and other colleagues to ensure that our use of technology for research, advocacy, outreach, communications, and IT infrastructure is consistent with the standards we apply to others.

7. Oversee and manage the production of reports and other advocacy materials and ensure these materials generate domestic and international pressure to curb human rights violations related to technology, and to promote uses of technology that advance human rights;

8. In collaboration with the Program Office, lead overall management of the division’s staff and operations. Monitor well-being of staff as it pertains to stress and resilience issues and self-care;

9. Manage budget setting and spending priorities, in co-operation with the Finance Department, monitor the division’s budget, manage funds, and ensure that resources are allocated to maximize impact;

10. Collaborate with the Development Department on fundraising, providing requested information and draft reports to donors in a timely manner, promoting the work of HRW as a whole, and soliciting and following up with potential new donors to achieve fundraising goals;

11. Respond to and/or anticipate relevant news events in order to frame developing news stories on technology through a human rights prism, advise senior management on effective responses and advocacy, and project a human rights perspective into national, regional and global media coverage;

12. Represent the organization in national, regional and international media on human rights issues related to technology;

13. Advocate with high-level officials from governments, companies, the United Nations, European Union, and other international and regional organizations;

14. Foster and strengthen partnerships with other human rights and civil society organizations, particularly local partners, and lead our collaboration in the human rights movement; 

15. Collaborate with HRW’s security teams to ensure the safety and resilience of staff, information security, and security of interlocutors and partners in their work with HRW; ensure that staff receive appropriate training in security policies and procedures, and that relevant policies and procedures are implemented effectively;

16. Lead, motivate, and mentor direct reports. Communicate clear expectations, set performance objectives, provide regular and timely constructive feedback, ensure balanced workload, and provide guidance on professional growth.

17. Promote an inclusive and positive work environment including by soliciting diverse points of views, encouraging staff to participate in diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, and proactively addressing bias, discrimination, and micro-aggressions;

18. Work collaboratively with all departments and divisions across the organization to ensure operational effectiveness, efficiency, and impact; 

19. Perform other responsibilities as required.


The successful candidate will be a thoughtful, collaborative, and strategic leader with deep knowledge and experience working on a diverse range of human rights issues related to technology They should have at least 1o years of relevant experience in international human rights or related work, including investigations, reporting, and advocacy, including relevant management experience, preferably one that involved both managing down and up within an organization or institution.

Required Qualifications / Skills

1. Deep knowledge of human rights issues related to technology, including the threats posed by new and emerging technologies and the role of technology in the major human rights challenges of our time. 

2. Experience developing legal, policy and grassroots approaches that stop or mitigate ongoing or prospective tech-related violations and their underlying causes, and that harness the power of technology to promote human rights. 

3. Understanding how technology can impact the rights of women and other specific populations, such as racial and ethnic minorities, children, older people, people with disabilities, people living in poverty and low-wage workers.

4. Management experience supervising a team of experienced professionals in multiple global locations.

5. Experience with implementing human rights and digital rights research methodologies to identify and challenge the role of technology in complex abuses. 

6. Ability to identify the pressing technology-related rights challenges and opportunities of the moment, as well as emerging issues, and to formulate effective strategies.

7. Excellent oral and written communication skills in English and ideally one other commonly spoken language.

8. Track record of dealing with the media and cultivating relationships with journalists.

9. Ability to present and defend complex issues and positions to officials in governments, companies, and other bodies and institutions.

10. Ability to explain technical systems to non-technical audiences from a human rights perspective, to explain the human rights principles and impact of technologies to technical audiences, and to translate strategically between the two groups.

11. Strong interpersonal skills to work collaboratively within HRW, as well as with local partners, company and government officials, and the media.

12. Demonstrated awareness and sensitivity to the needs and concerns of individuals from diverse cultures, backgrounds, and orientations.


Salary and Benefits: HRW seeks exceptional applicants and offers competitive compensation and employer-paid benefits. HRW offers a relocation assistance package and will assist employees in obtaining necessary work authorization, if required; citizens of all nationalities are encouraged to apply.

Application instructions

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