Technical Standards and Human Rights: The Case of New IP

Forthcoming, Human Rights in a Changing World, to be published by Chatham House and Brookings Institution Press.

26 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2021 Last revised: 20 Jan 2022

See all articles by Carolina Caeiro

Carolina Caeiro

Chatham House

Kate Jones

Chatham House; Oxford Information Labs

Emily Taylor

Chatham House; Oxford Information Labs; Oxford Internet Institute

Date Written: August 18, 2021

Abstract

China is seeking to set the rules that will govern the technologies of the future through the development of digital technical standards. Influencing standards favors China’s efforts to consolidate as a tech superpower, while simultaneously allowing the country to build its own ideological tenets into the design of new technologies. This article looks at China’s proposal to standardize an alternative Internet infrastructure --branded by its proponents as ‘New IP’-- as a case study to demonstrate how the development of technical standards has significant ethical and human rights implications. By looking at available depictions of New IP, the article outlines how this proposed networking model would enable mass surveillance and erode anonymity online. Whether implemented by China within its territory or deployed by third countries, New IP would interfere with the right to privacy, freedom of expression and opinion, freedom of association and assembly of network users. In the specific case of China, New IP could strengthen social credit systems that make the implementation of some human rights conditional on government expectations around social behaviour, contradicting the principle of universality of human rights. Based on this case study, the article argues that standardization processes need to urgently develop greater human rights awareness or risk undermining human rights protections of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN human rights treaties. The article examines asymmetries that favor international trade protections over human rights considerations when dealing with ITU recommended technical standards, explaining China’s preference for this specific standards development organization. While standards development should remain a sphere of technical and engineering expertise, the article offers a series of recommendations to better integrate human rights into standardisation processes.

Keywords: Human Rights, Technical Standards, Internet, China, Emerging Technologies, New IP

JEL Classification: O30, O31, O32, O33, O38

Suggested Citation

Caeiro, Carolina and Jones, Kate and Taylor, Emily and Taylor, Emily, Technical Standards and Human Rights: The Case of New IP (August 18, 2021). Forthcoming, Human Rights in a Changing World, to be published by Chatham House and Brookings Institution Press., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3907165

Carolina Caeiro (Contact Author)

Chatham House ( email )

10 St James's Square
London, SW1Y 4LE
United Kingdom

Kate Jones

Chatham House ( email )

10 St James's Square
London, SW1Y 4LE
United Kingdom

Oxford Information Labs ( email )

Lincoln House
Pony Road
Oxford, OX4 2RD
United Kingdom

Emily Taylor

Oxford Information Labs ( email )

Lincoln House
Pony Road
Oxford, OX4 2RD
United Kingdom

Chatham House ( email )

10 St James's Square
London, SW1Y 4LE
United Kingdom

Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

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