General Information on the SERIT TA 7
“Security means protecting people and the values of freedom and democracy, so that everyone can
enjoy their daily lives without fear”.
In this significant sentence of the EU Council, the term security is inextricably bound to the words “freedom” and “democracy” and, as a consequence, to their “legal implications” and “ethical value”. These two issues identify the working context of the SERIT TA 7, called “Ethics and Law in Security” where the acronym “TA” stands for “Transversal Area” better than “Technological Area”.
In very general terms, the TA 7 may be defined as an interdisciplinary group of experts in charge of (i) providing a support to the other SERIT Technological Areas and Guide Sectors (Missions) in their intersections with the legal and ethical aspects of the “security” and (ii) developing own strategies in order to promote and support the national and international research in the area of the juridical and ethical aspects related to security.
Differently from the other SERIT TAs that were created earlier, the SERIT TA 7 begun its activity in 2011, starting from the consideration that a large research platform, such as SERIT, could not neglect the difficulties often met experts by the security technologies in dealing with non-technological collateral aspects such as legal and ethical issues.
As indicated in the section “Future possible actions for TA 7”, it is foreseen that the social aspects will be proposed soon as the third line of research. For this reason, in the continuation of the present document, from now, there will be some references to these aspects.
The legal, social and ethical dimension of the “security”
It is always more evident that the evolution of the technology is characterized by a speed practically unreachable by other disciplines such as those related to the legal or ethical fields.
The damaging effects of this “variable speed” condition, once probably underestimated, are now well clear to all the experts. In some cases, when a project in an advanced stage of deployment enters into a collision course with some collateral implications, such as, for example, data protection issues, the consequences may be very severe.
With particular reference to the “security” sector, the history of technological innovations, includes several cases in which a public or private entity, after having invested considerable capitals, has
suffered a huge financial loss, due to obligation of quitting a project because of a veto imposed by a legislator who recognized in it elements of non-compliance with the regulatory framework.
As anticipated in the continuation of the present document, together with the ethical and legal aspects of the security, the TA will propose to widen the scope of the research also to the societal aspects.
This also in consideration that the European Commission itself has recognized that the problems associated to the societal acceptance of security technologies have to be taken in strong consideration to avoid a number of possible negative consequences. For industry it means the risk of investing in technologies, which are then not accepted by the public, leading to wasted investment. For the demand side it means being forced to purchase a less controversial product which however does not entirely fulfills the security requirements.
On the other hand, also Horizon 2020 emphasizes that the societal and fundamental rights impact should be assessed before and during R&D and that the societal impact checking needs to be more
systematic. Given the complexity of products and variation in practices and societal issues among EU member states, there is a need for a coherent framework to enable effective and relatively standardised societal impact assessment at all stages.
Last, but not least, the ethical aspects are gaining a strong importance, particularly in the context of the European Commission Research Programs. For example, the Article 6 “Ethical principles”, (1§) of the DECISION No 1982/2006/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL quotes that “All the research activities carried out under the Seventh Framework Programme shall be carried out in compliance with fundamental ethical principles”. Although the attention is mainly focused to the medical scenario, if an ethical review is due for a project, the protection of personal data and the respect for human dignity are fundamental points to be assessed.
Terms of Reference of TA 7
A non-exhaustive list of the TA 7 Terms of Reference is reported below:
- The TA 7, with specific mention to the SERIT platform, aims to represent one of the reference points of the Italian scientific community related to the security sector.
- Its cultural area is identified by the intersection between the security oriented technologies and their legal and ethical aspects.
- To this purpose, the TA 7 relates primarily to the SERIT Missions and Technological Areas in providing a support in its competence areas.
- The TA 7 operates in an international framework, but considers the activities of the European Commission as the primary context of activity.
- The TA 7, with the support of the SERIT network, monitors the international research pertaining to its competence sector, with particular reference to the European Commission context.
The TA 7 Research Sectors: first steps
The initial research sectors individuated for the TA 7 are:
- Data Protection.
- Protecting the rights of the person.
It is expected that the TA 7, in a near future, will approach two particular areas:
- Legal and Ethical Aspects of Biometric Data International Sharing.
Furthermore, considering the wide popularity that the Automated Border Crossing (ABC) systems are gaining in the international contexts, a new sector of interest for TA 7 could consist in the study of the societal implications, fundamental rights and privacy associated to ABC systems, with particular reference to the implications pertaining the use of the biometric technologies.
As a matter of fact, there are not so many references on the impact of ABC systems on passengers which, sometimes, are reluctant to use such systems.
Several motivations may be adduced to explain such condition but it is basically certain that the assurance that travelers’ biometric data sets are not being uses for unauthorized purposes plays an
important role in the users’ acceptability.