Advancing Human Rights-by-Design in the Dual-Use Technology Industry

Columbia Journal of International Affairs, Vol .71, No. 2, p. 104, 2018

9 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2018 Last revised: 9 Jun 2020

See all articles by Jon Penney

Jon Penney

Harvard Law School; Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society; Citizen Lab, University of Toronto

Sarah McKune

University of Toronto, Munk School of Global Affairs, Citizen Lab

Lex Gill

University of Toronto, Munk School of Global Affairs, Citizen Lab

Ronald J. Deibert

University of Toronto - Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy

Date Written: July 24, 2018

Abstract

It is no secret that technology companies have greased the wheels for human rights abuses around the world — backed by a global web of private sector support and investment that has yielded significant financial returns. For example, the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab recently published research analyzing the use of Internet filtering technology developed by Canadian company Netsweeper in ten countries globally — Afghanistan, Bahrain, India, Kuwait, Pakistan, Qatar, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen — and concluded these uses likely violated international human rights law. Products like Netsweeper’s Internet filtering systems are often referred to as "dual use" technologies: though they may serve legitimate societal objectives in some cases, they also used to undermine human rights like freedom of expression and privacy. Yet Netsweeper is but one example among a growing number of such dual-use tech companies, within a wider and complex cyber security industry, prepared to facilitate mass censorship and surveillance — and increasingly doing so with the financial backing of specialized and powerful investment firms. This paper cites this and other examples to help document this now billion dollar worldwide market and offers ideas and proposals to help clean it up via stronger human rights norms — including human rights-by-design for dual use technologies — among all stakeholders in the cyber security industry: from governments, to businesses, to their employees and shareholders, to industry associations, and the private investment firms funding it all.

Keywords: Human Rights, Corporate Social Responsibility, Dual Use, Dual Use Technology, Cybersecurity, Information Security, Private Sector, Financing, Shareholders, Investors, Investment Firms

JEL Classification: F00, F3, K33

Suggested Citation

Penney, Jonathon and McKune, Sarah and Gill, Lex and Deibert, Ronald J., Advancing Human Rights-by-Design in the Dual-Use Technology Industry (July 24, 2018). Columbia Journal of International Affairs, Vol .71, No. 2, p. 104, 2018, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3218975

Jonathon Penney (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts
Hauser 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA Nova Scotia 02138
Canada

Citizen Lab, University of Toronto ( email )

Munk School of Global Affairs
University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3K7
Canada

Sarah McKune

University of Toronto, Munk School of Global Affairs, Citizen Lab ( email )

Toronto, Ontario
Canada

Lex Gill

University of Toronto, Munk School of Global Affairs, Citizen Lab ( email )

Toronto, Ontario
Canada

Ronald J. Deibert

University of Toronto - Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy ( email )

315 Bloor Street W.
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3K7
Canada
4169468916 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://deibert.citizenlab.ca/

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
115
Abstract Views
825
rank
265,174
PlumX Metrics