Trading emerging technologies: Security and human rights perspectives

15 September 2020
  • Starts at: 13:00h
  • Fee: Free
  • Venue: T.M.C. Asser Instituut
  • Organiser: T.M.C. Asser Instituut and Universiteit Utrecht
  • Address: R.J. Schimmelpennincklaan 20-22
    2517 JN The Hague
    Netherlands
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On Tuesday 15 September 2020, the Asser Institute and the Utrecht University are jointly organising an afternoon expert round table on the topic of ‘Trading Emerging Technologies: Security and Human Rights Perspectives’.

Demand for digital technology in both public and private sectors has created a thriving global market. While digital technology trade brings economic and social benefits, the trading practice has also intensified tensions among states which regard it as increasing security vulnerabilities. Digital technology has been at the front of the US-China trade war. The tensions have in part led the US government to initiate the export control of emerging technologies, including, not only advanced information technology, but also robotics, brain-computer interfaces, and additive manufacturing such as 3D printing.

Regulatory narratives

Against this background, this expert round table aims at understanding and comparing the underlying narrative and justification used by the US, EU, and European states in regulating (or attempting to regulate) the trade of advanced digital technology and other emerging technologies. The focus will be directed at the comparison and synergy of security versus human rights narratives. On the one hand, the US government has employed broad “national security” narrative in order to take proactive steps in regulating the trade practices. On the other hand, the EU has taken certain initiatives – at least until 2018 – to foster human rights perspectives in regulating the export of digital surveillance technology. While EU member states remain divided, the Dutch government notably advocated the EU’s proactive role in promoting the regulation of digital technology exports on the basis of their human rights risks (see: Kamerbrief inzake Betreft Stand van zaken herziening dual use-verordening binnen de EU, 29 August 2018).

Human rights narratives have also been recently advocated at the UN’s level. In his May 2019 report, Special Rapporteur David Kaye expressed serious concerns about the status of ‘surveillance exports’. In view of the growing digital surveillance market at the expense of human rights protection, he foremost recommended that states ‘impose an immediate moratorium’ on the ‘export, sale, transfer, use or serving of privately developed surveillance tools’—until ‘a human rights-complaint safeguards regime’ is in place (Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, ‘Surveillance and Human Rights’ UN Doc. A/HRC/41/35, 28 May 2019).

The expert round table will address the mixed narrative of security and human rights underlying trade restrictions imposed (or to be imposed) on information technology and other emerging technologies. What are the fundamental differences among the key industrial players in imposing trade restrictions on advanced information technology and other emerging technologies? What role should and could the EU play in reforming the regulatory frameworks? What are the differences in narrative among EU member states?

The event is jointly organised by the Asser Institute and the Utrecht Centre for Global Challenges’ project on ‘Disrupting Technological Innovation? Towards an Ethical and Legal Framework’.

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Detailed programme and speakers to follow.

Registration for this event is free, and open to relevant experts from academia and practice.