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MEPs demand controls on cyber-surveillance tools

MEPs demand controls on cyber-surveillance tools

Photo U.S. Army illustration

(STRASBOURG) - EU export controls should be extended to cyber-surveillance tools to avoid human rights violations, MEPs said in a vote Wednesday, setting the Parliament's position for negotiations with EU ministers.

The EU is currently updating its rules on the export control of dual-use items to keep up with new technologies and to prevent authoritarian regimes from spying on their own citizens with the help of European products.

Goods and technologies designed for use in peaceful, civilian circumstances, but that can also be used to build weapons of mass destruction or in terrorist attacks, are already under an EU export control regime. The new rules would add certain cyber-surveillance tools to the list of items that need to be approved by national authorities before being exported. These include devices for intercepting mobile phones, hacking computers, circumventing passwords or identifying internet users, as such dual-use items are widely used to supress civilians, political opposition and activists around the world.

"Dictators spy on their citizens using EU cyber-surveillance. This must stop," said Parliament's rapporteur Klaus Buchner MEP: "The EU cannot contribute to the suffering of courageous activists, who often risk their lives for freedom and democracy. Trade should promote security, stability and human rights in the world. We are determined to close dangerous gaps in the export control of dual-use goods and call on member states to follow suit."

MEPs want to protect human rights more robustly and create a system that can rapidly deal with new technologies.

Their key suggestions include:

  • protecting the right to privacy, data and freedom of assembly more thoroughly, by adding clear-cut criteria and definitions to the law,
  • exporters of products not listed in the new law, but which could be used for human-rights violations, have to make sure that their goods will not fall into the wrong hands, by following OECD-based 'due-diligence' guidelines,
  • the EU Commission must publish a handbook before the entry into force of the new rules, so that EU businesses know what they can and cannot do,
  • new risks and technologies have to be swiftly included in the law,
  • creating a level playing field among member states, by, for example, introducing similar penalties for non-compliance, along with greater transparency of national authorities' export control decisions, and
  • removing encryption technologies from the list of cyber-surveillance products, as these are vital for the self-defence of human rights defenders.

MEPs have now set the Parliament's negotiating position. Talks can start as soon as EU member states have agreed on their own negotiating position.

Further information, European Parliament

The adopted text will be available here (click on 17.01.2018.)

Procedure file

Dual-use control in a nutshell (by the Commission)


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