Taking Steps to Further Bolster Chip Industry’s Commitment to Ethics

Wednesday, Dec 08, 2021, 1:00pm

by Jimmy Goodrich, Vice President, Global Policy

by Meghan Biery, Director of Global Technology and Security Policy


Semiconductors are the lifeblood of modern technology products. The innovative devices produced by semiconductor companies enable everything from life-saving medical research to increased workplace productivity, green technology, and connectivity among people around the world. As semiconductors have become smarter, faster, and more efficient, they promise to deliver even more life-improving capabilities. However, innovative capabilities developed to improve lives may be exploited for questionable purposes. Actors — whether private or governmental — can exploit the dual-use nature of technologies enabled by advances in digital technologies to engage in human rights violations, such as unlawful surveillance or acts of digital oppression.

Across its entire ecosystem, the semiconductor industry takes seriously its responsibility to take appropriate and effective measures to prevent the use of its technologies to commit human rights abuses. Individual companies engage in robust trade compliance and due diligence practices to ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations designed to prevent malign end-use, and engage in actions to mitigate the malicious use of technologies. At the same time, SIA and its members recognize the industry’s responsibility to continue to examine measures to prevent semiconductor technologies from enabling oppressive or unlawful surveillance and policing capabilities that curtail human rights.

To amplify existing industry-wide commitments to ethics and human rights, SIA is releasing a set of Voluntary Ethical Guidelines for Surveillance, Policing, and Semiconductors. These guidelines are not exhaustive, but they serve as a starting point and enumerate voluntary principles the industry believes should be followed for the development and sale of semiconductor products, particularly those used in surveillance applications technology powered by AI. These guidelines are intended to serve as a starting point for conversations between the myriad stakeholders — government and private — that share responsibility and interest in preventing these technologies from being deployed in violation of human rights.

The semiconductor industry will continue to enhance its own best practices to mitigate abuse of its innovative technologies, taking actions across the spectrum of due-diligence, customer relations, and transparency and traceability, as described in the Ethical Guidelines. However, successfully curbing the malign use of these technologies will require effective private-public and international partnerships to identify technologies, capabilities, practices, and parties of concern, and collaborate on common practices. The semiconductor industry welcomes the furthering of these partnerships and looks forward to serving as a constructive and leading voice on this issue.