First steps towards curbing digital arms exports welcome

Dutch member of the European Parliament, Marietje Schaake (ALDE/D66) welcomes the fact that steps are finally being taken to regulate the trade in digital arms. A group of 41 countries, including all EU member states, the US and Russia, has decided to control the export of certain intrusive technologies. Schaake: “For years, this has been a gaping hole in EU regulation which has had profound implications for human rights and for our strategic interests. Authoritarian regimes use technology to spy on and repress their population, but the systems that European and other companies export can also be used against us in a cyber-attack or for corporate espionage. Digital weapons can be as effective and dangerous as conventional arms.”

A limited proposal

In the context of the so-called Wassenaar Arrangement, 41 countries have now agreed to control the export of technologies that can be used for hacking and mass surveillance. Schaake: “National governments finally seem to recognise the importance of controlling the export of intrusive technologies. That is a crucial first step, but this agreement does require more work. It lacks precision and the terms that are used are open for interpretation. Because of this, some dangerous technologies will not be controlled, whereas other harmless ones might be. We need clear definitions so that we do not inhibit the transfer of harmless software that helps people gain access to information or freedom of speech. We should not create rules where we do not need them, especially if we want to protect open internet.”

Offensive capacity

According to Schaake it is extremely important that the EU sets out a clear course. “It is strange that EU foreign policy chief Ashton is advocating the development of offensive EU cyber capacity just as EU member states decide that they are going to control the export of offensive cyber technologies.” Schaake has repeatedly asked Ashton and the Commission questions concerning this capacity, but has never received a clear answer. “We need an unambiguous policy and clear goals, so that we can talk about the right democratic oversight and judicial framework for an offensive cyber capacity if this is actually being developed.”

 

 

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