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Software manufacturers liable for product misuse

New export rules in the European Union aim to prevent software misuse that leads to human rights violations. Manufacturers could now be held liable to a greater degree. The draft bill is still under discussion.

08 Feb. 2018 Isabelle Reiff
Source: BMWi
Source: BMWi

Since the Wassenaar Arrangement and the associated Dual Use Regulation of 2009, the EU has restricted the export of products that can be used for both civilian and military purposes, referred to as dual-use goods. Detailed lists of these goods exist. But when it comes to computer technologies, these lists often trail behind. During the Arab Spring, for example, no export control was performed for monitoring software. Authoritarian states, such as Bahrain, simply purchased them to spy on government critics.

The Trade Council of the EU Parliament now wants to amend the associated regulation no. 428/2009: In the future, software manufacturers will have to make sure their products are not misused for human rights violations. Otherwise, they could face penalties or even license suspension. The EU representatives are also demanding that encryption software no longer be subjected to export restrictions, as it is essential for the self-defense of human rights activists. Industry association DigitalEurope argues that export restrictions on cryptography products force companies to make their products less secure.

The draft bill is next in line for negotiation among member states of the council.