Regulating Uncertain States: A Risk-Based Policy Agenda for Quantum Technologies

(2022) 20:2 Canadian Journal of Law and Technology 179

Ottawa Faculty of Law Working Paper No. 2022-26

59 Pages Posted: 15 Sep 2022 Last revised: 19 Jan 2023

See all articles by Tina Dekker

Tina Dekker


Florian Martin-Bariteau

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society; University of Ottawa - Common Law Section; University of Ottawa - Centre for Law, Technology and Society

Date Written: May 1, 2022


Quantum technologies are the next great disrupter. They will inevitably affect society and disrupt it as the technology matures. Quantum materials are underpinning next generation electronics and nanotechnologies. Quantum sensors are changing how we see and measure our world, and Quantum communication offers ultra-secure communication channels and the possibility of a quantum Internet. Quantum computing promises unique computational capabilities that can potentially transform entire industries with improved optimization and modelling. Yet the same computational power that may help solve some of the world’s toughest problems may also harm society, exacerbate global inequalities, pose significant cybersecurity and national security risks, or facilitate controversial practices such as algorithmic surveillance and genetic engineering.

Many countries are taking a national approach to developing quantum strategies with a strong focus on innovation. However, societal, ethical, legal, and policy considerations should not be an afterthought that are pushed aside by the drive for innovation. A responsible, global approach to quantum technologies that considers the legal, ethical, and societal dimensions of quantum technologies is necessary to avoid exacerbating existing global inequalities. Quantum technologies are expected to disrupt other transformative technologies whose legal landscape is still under development (e.g., artificial intelligence [AI], blockchain, etc.). The shortcomings of global policies regarding AI and the digital context offer lessons learned that can be applied to the quantum technologies policy agenda.

Building on global shortcomings with AI, this paper proposes a risk-based functional approach to prepare society for current and future quantum developments. We apply this risk-based functional approach to the Canadian context to demonstrate how Canada and other jurisdictions can leverage the approach toward establishing global preparedness for the era of quantum technologies. To ensure that the development and commercialization of quantum technologies do not cause more harm than good, this policy agenda envisions steps to mitigate the potential harms and incorporate safeguards with respect to three key aspects: privacy and data governance; access and use; and market competition.

Data protection and governance frameworks are already lagging behind for the digital context and are not ready for the quantum age. Owing to concepts like retroactive decryption, the security risks of quantum technologies require foresight and readiness through a paradigm shift before the technologies are operationalized. Similarly, the unique capabilities of quantum technologies require serious consideration about who can access and use them. Rather than building a “quantum firewall” through a complete ban or a race for quantum advantage, a risk-based approach could include classifying some quantum technologies under the military, dual-use, or strategic goods frameworks to control their development, export, commercialization and use.

The creation of a safe and responsible ecosystem also requires a competition and antitrust approach. For example, much of the quantum innovation drive in the field of quantum computing is led by MAGIIQ—Microsoft, Amazon, Google, IBM, Intel, and Quantinuum. This market dominance raises significant concerns regarding the global competitive landscape for quantum computing to ensure fair and equal access to the technology through legal instruments aimed at protecting ethical values. Moreover, as quantum computing will likely enable other technologies, such as AI and materials engineering, whoever dominates in quantum computing achieves a competitive edge in other markets as well, leading to a potential shift in geopolitical power.

Keywords: quantum, sensors, computing, communication, law, ethics, policy, national security, defence, cybersecurity, privacy, standards

Suggested Citation

Dekker, Tina and Martin-Bariteau, Florian, Regulating Uncertain States: A Risk-Based Policy Agenda for Quantum Technologies (May 1, 2022). (2022) 20:2 Canadian Journal of Law and Technology 179, Ottawa Faculty of Law Working Paper No. 2022-26, Available at SSRN: or

Tina Dekker


Florian Martin-Bariteau (Contact Author)

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

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section ( email )

57 Louis Pasteur
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 6N5


University of Ottawa - Centre for Law, Technology and Society ( email )

57 Louis Pasteur
Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5

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