US Pushes Global Effort to Limit Access to Surveillance Technology

The U.S. expects to lead a worldwide effort to restrict exports of surveillance tools that authoritarian nations can use to suppress political dissidents and human rights, The Wall Street Journal is reporting.

The initiative will be announced at the Summit for Democracy, a virtual gathering of friendly nations set for next Thursday and Friday. More than 100 democratic countries will take part in the summit.

Officials from the Biden administration said the effort will allow participating nations to share information on technologies used by the authoritarian nations to crack down on human rights. They said the effort would also establish a code of conduct for dealing with export licensing policies.

The world-wide growth of digital surveillance has sparked the U.S.-led effort, a senior administration official said.

“Technology is being misused by governments to surveil and, in some cases — as in the case of the PRC [People’s Republic of China] — to control their population,” the official said in a briefing with reporters on Thursday.

China and Russia were not invited to the summit and have criticized the meeting.

A senior Chinese official said that it divides countries and points fingers at others. The Associated Press reported the ruling Communist Party in China maintains the nation has its own form of democracy and will issue a report title “China: Democracy that Works.”

Meanwhile, the Journal reported that U.S. companies have provided China with the tools to set up a surveillance network for keeping tabs on political dissidents and ethnic minorities.

The newspaper noted the companies have maintained they can’t control how their technology is used.

Another senior official from the Biden administration touted the global approach to curbing access to surveillance technology.

“This is a group of like-minded governments who will commit to working together to determine how export controls could better monitor and, as appropriate, restrict the proliferation of such technologies given their increasing misuse by end users in human rights abuses,” the official said.

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