Jean-Marie Bockel (France)

12 October 2019

This ESCTER report was adopted on Saturday 12 October 2019 by the Economic and Security Committee at the 65th Annual Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in London, United Kingdom.


The global economy is increasingly shaped by developments in digital technologies. These changes are not only affecting the high technology sector, but they are also restructuring almost all industries including traditional sectors like agriculture, basic manufacturing, retail markets and transportation. Moreover, access to this critical technology is expanding rapidly.  The optimism that originally surrounded the digital revolution is now tempered by mounting security concerns, a burgeoning threat to privacy and the emergence of a digital divide between those who have mastered the technology and those who barely have access to it and who therefore cannot share in its benefits.

Digital technology has also greatly facilitated the manipulation of democratic politics and public opinion in ways that few would have imagined when this technology first emerged. As the Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s key advisors demonstrated, if not properly protected, digital devices and infrastructure can leave open democracies vulnerable to foreign manipulation and massive propaganda campaigns with potentially devastating consequences. The Internet has now become an arena of criminal activity and intense state competition that can be a source of genuine vulnerability and threat. It is therefore increasingly subject to defensive regulation by governments asserting fundamental sovereignty claims and is no longer understood simply as an idealistic expression of the global commons. 

This report explores the recent evolution of the digital economy as well as the economic and security challenges it poses both to North America and Europe. It considers how countries are responding to these challenges, often in an uncoordinated fashion and looks at the specific security challenges posed by China and Russia. It also looks at specific areas of tension between Europe and the United States in areas such as data privacy and market regulation.  It concludes that revolutionary economic changes demand paradigmatic shifts in government regulations and international collaboration. Democracies need to work together as they face both economic competition and digital security and economic challenges from rivals guided by very different political, social and international objectives. They must do so with shared societal values in mind, including defending democratic norms and institutions, protecting individual rights including privacy, defending national and collective security interests, preventing the emergence of corporate monopolies, taxing entities that operate so seamlessly across borders and deterring cyber-attacks.



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