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CQN Fellow advises how to regulate quantum technology before everyone understands how it works

By Sandra Helsel posted 14 Apr 2022

(TechRepublic)  Senior writer Veronica Combs recently spoke with Rob Heverly, an Albany Law School professor and one of nine 2022 Fellows for the National Science Foundation’s Center for Quantum Networks (CQN). Heverly says it’s time for researchers, legislators and regulators to start discussing quantum computing and all of the benefits and risks of this technology.  IQT-News summarizes Heverly’s insights and suggestions.

Heverly studies the regulation and legal implications of new technologies and advises policy makers on how new technologies can be regulated even when they are not fully understood. Heverly said it’s always a problem when policy makers oversimplify technology when trying to write regulations.
The key to regulating new technology is to focus on legal and illegal behavior, not the tools used in these activities. “Instead of focusing on the way in which fraud happens over the internet, just make a fraud law,” he said. “Look at conduct and forbid those things.”
Heverly’s work with the CQN focuses on how to regulate the quantum internet and how to explain this new technology to regulators and lawmakers so that policy choices have an accurate foundation. He suggested the quantum fellows review how policy makers and national security officials have interacted with new technologies in the past.

The Center’s goals are to build a quantum internet that meets these two criteria:
–Enables physics-based communication security that cannot be compromised by any amount of computational power
–Creates a global network of quantum computers, processors and sensors that are fundamentally more powerful than today’s technology

Heverly suggests that regulators and law enforcement officials start discussions about quantum encryption and quantum networks with these two questions:
–What regulations are needed in terms of how law enforcement can access information sent across the quantum internet?
–How can we ensure individual countries or governments do not obtain sole jurisdiction over quantum internet regulation?

He said the key is to educate policy makers about the capabilities of a new technology and to think in terms of broad use cases. “Until quantum networking is out there and entrepreneurs start doing stuff with it, we won’t be able to say what it can do,” he said. “But if you create really strong encryption to be used over networks and make it widely available, people are going to do bad stuff with it.”

Part of the challenge of regulating new technology is that the stakeholders–users, developers, regulators and national security experts–don’t all speak the same language. One way to bridge the gap between lawmakers and researchers is to find an expert who can translate complex topics for a general audience and encourage that individual to take on a spokesperson role.

Sandra K. Helsel, Ph.D. has been researching and reporting on frontier technologies since 1990.  She has her Ph.D. from the University of Arizona

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