Global rules are needed to govern the proliferation of these weapons of mass repression
Last year saw the highest global military spending – nearly $2tn – since 1988. More than half of that was expenditure by the United States and its allies. Defence capabilities are closely guarded national assets. A web of rules has grown up around the export of arms and their use. No country wants its most lethal weapons being turned upon themselves.
Yet there are at least 500 private companies that operate, largely unregulated, and sell intrusive software to oppressive regimes that spy on and harass their critics. These anti-democratic acts ought to be enough to bring such trade to a halt. However it has continued; the industry says these tools are for fighting crime and terrorism. What happens when, instead, governments opt to use these capabilities not just on their people, but on the democratic west?