WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States wants to look into working with allies to restrict exports of surveillance technologies that could be used to violate human rights, a senior White House official said Thursday (Dec 2).
Washington “will launch an Export Control and Human Rights Initiative” at President Joe Biden’s democracy summit to be held virtually on Dec 9 and 10, the official said.
“We will assemble a group of like-minded governments that will commit to working together to determine how export control tools could better monitor and, as appropriate, restrict the proliferation of such technologies,” the official said.
The official said such measures were being examined given the “increasing misuse by end-users in abusing human rights, including acts of transnational repression”. The official did not say which allied countries might be involved in the initiative but indicated that “many” signatories to the Wassenaar Arrangement would sign up.
The Wassenaar Arrangement is an informal multilateral commitment for the control of exports of conventional weapons and so-called “dual-use” goods and technologies.
The agreement has 42 states as members.
The “voluntary and informal” working group will “develop and adopt a written, non-binding code of conduct or statement of principles intended to guide the application of human rights criteria to export licensing policy and practice,” the official said.
The same official pointed out that Washington has already put in place measures to prevent China from using American technologies for the suppression of the Uyghurs and made similar decisions regarding the Myanmar regime.
The US has also blacklisted Israeli companies NSO and Candiru, the official said.
Surveillance technologies cover a wide range of increasingly sophisticated tools whose use is spreading all over the world, from surveillance cameras, biometric software, facial recognition software, drones, and phone eavesdropping and data tracking systems.