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

41 Pages Posted: 15 Sep 2022 Last revised: 13 Oct 2022

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 transformative and will inevitably affect society and disrupt it as the technology matures. Quantum materials will underpin next generation electronics and nanotechnologies. Quantum sensors are changing how we see and measure our world. Quantum communication offers ultra-secure communication channels and the possibility of a quantum internet. Quantum computing promises unique computational capabilities that can potentially transform numerous 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 when abused and 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 computing 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,...). The shortcomings of global policies regarding AI and the digital context offer lessons learned that can be applied to the quantum computing 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 lead to 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 they 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 supremacy, 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. Much of the quantum innovation drive is led by the 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, whomever 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). 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

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics