The United States, in cooperation with its allies, wants to restrict the export of surveillance technologies that could be used for human rights abuses. As a White House representative said in Washington on Thursday, President Joe Biden plans to launch an "export control and human rights initiative" at the democracy summit he convened next week. The representative pointed out that America has already enacted related measures against China.
According to the information, a "voluntary and informal" working group of "like-minded governments" is to "develop a written, non-binding code of conduct or statement of principles." This, it said, should serve as a "guide for applying human rights criteria to export licensing policies and practices." This is necessary, he said, because of the "increasing misuse" of technologies "by end users for human rights abuses." This abuse is also taking place across national borders, he said.
The representative did not say which allied countries would participate in the initiative. But he indicated that "many" signatories to the Wassenaar Arrangement would participate. The agreement is an informal multilateral commitment to control exports of conventional weapons and so-called dual-use goods and technologies. These are technologies that can be used for both civilian and military purposes. The agreement includes 42 countries, including Germany.
The United States accuses China of using surveillance technologies to suppress the Muslim Uighurs living in Xinjiang province. They have therefore banned the sale of relevant technologies to Chinese authorities. America has also issued similar measures against the military junta in Myanmar, which uses violence against opposition members and protesters. American authorities have also blacklisted Israeli surveillance software providers NSO and Candiru.
Surveillance technologies encompass a wide range of tools - from surveillance cameras, facial recognition software and drones to phone tapping and data tracking systems. The United States is itself under criticism for the mass surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden in the NSA scandal.