The European Union decided on Monday to tighten the regulations on the selling and export of technologies for cybersurveillance.
A tentative agreement was reached between EU lawmakers and the European Council to update restrictions on so-called dual-use products, such as facial recognition technologies and spyware, in order to deter them from being used to breach human rights.
Under the new regulations, European companies will have to register for government permits to sell such goods and will have to follow beefed up conditions to include provisions for considering whether the sale presents a danger to human rights.
By openly sharing information regarding the export licences they issue, EU countries would also have to be more accountable. And it is also possible to change the laws swiftly to cover new developments.
High-performance computers, helicopters and some chemicals may also be used in dual use technology.
“Today is a worldwide civil rights triumph. Marketa Gregorova, a European Parliament lawmaker who was one of the main negotiators, said in a tweet that we have set a significant precedent for other democracies to follow. “It would no longer be possible for authoritarian governments to illegally get their hands on European cyber surveillance.”
The deal comes after years of talks and also needs official ratification by the European Parliament and other bodies, although this is supposed to be a formality.
Human rights organisations have asked the EU to tighten the laws regulating exports. In a recent paper, Amnesty International said that the current laws of the bloc do not address the “rapidly evolving nature of surveillance” or take account of emerging threats raised by modern digital surveillance technologies. The group said it had identified three European firms exporting automated monitoring technologies to China.