What is quantum computing and what are its legal issues?
Following on from the Spring Budget, the government has published its long-awaited national quantum strategy policy paper. As expected, the government has clearly set out that quantum technology is one of its key technologic priorities, evidenced through its commitment to invest £2.5 billion of government funding into quantum R&D over the 10 years from 2024. The paper covers a broad array of topics, such as how it plans to invest in this area in terms of skills, jobs, research and infrastructure, and the paper also raises awareness of the commercial opportunities offered by this new and exciting technology.
In addition, the government sets out its plans to establish regulatory testbeds and sandboxes to ensure a responsible and ethical approach to the development of quantum technology. The paper also notes that the government’s approach to regulation will be to ensure innovation whilst also guaranteeing ethical use of quantum technologies. In this vein, the paper establishes that the government shall commission the Regulatory Horizon Council to commence a regulatory review of quantum technology in order to create ensure that the UK’s regulatory approach allows the sector to innovate and grow.
Given this latest update, it is crucial that your business understands quantum technology in order to take advantage of this rapidly expanding sector.
Quantum computing is a revolutionary technology that has the potential to transform many aspects of our lives. Quantum computing harnesses the subatomic physics of quantum mechanics. What does that actually mean in practice? Whilst traditional computer technology is based on binary units (1s and 0s), quantum mechanisms allow for these units to carry more than one value at any given time, thus increasing the number of computations that can be processed concurrently and delivering much higher processing speeds.
Until recently quantum computing had been the preserve of physicists and computer scientists. Now Quantum computing is attracting significant public and private sector investment, which culminated in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy publishing a call for evidence to inform the development of a quantum strategy. This call for evidence has now been answered, with the release of the national quantum strategy, which sets out the government’s ambitious 10-year plan towards quantum technologies.
Quantum computing has the potential to deliver incredible benefits not least in the realms of automation, AI and medical research. However, quantum computing is so fast that it is also likely to run a coach and horses through our current encryption methods. Therefore, it is vital that privacy and security concerns are addressed. What’s more, quantum enabled AI will be an incredibly powerful tool, that will need careful management.
Benefits and potential application
Quantum computing will allow for AI programs to process incredibly large data sets to solve highly complex problems in shorter timeframes. Such developments will be groundbreaking in healthcare and medical research in areas such as in diagnostic tools and predictive healthcare. Predictive analytics allows for large volumes of historic and real-time information to be processed to create valuable forecasts, predictions, and recommendations which benefits individuals and wider patient groups.
Privacy and Security
Quantum computing has the potential to break many of the encryption methods that are currently used to protect sensitive data, such as banking information, medical records, and government secrets. As a result, there are serious privacy and security concerns associated with quantum computing. Legal frameworks for data protection and privacy will need to be revisited, and new measures will need to be developed to protect sensitive information from quantum-based cyberattacks.
Ethics and Social Implications
As with any new technology, quantum computing raises a number of ethical and social questions. For example, who will benefit from this technology, and who will be left behind? What will be the social and economic implications of quantum computing? How can we ensure that the use of quantum computing is ethical and does not harm individuals or society as a whole? How should quantum-enabled AI be regulated? Legal professionals and the quantum technology sector will need to consider these questions as quantum computing continues to evolve and become more widely used.
What should businesses be doing?
Be aware of the notification requirements under the National Security and Investment Act 2021 – quantum computing falls within the mandatory notification regime in that where a company wishes to acquire share or voting rights in companies and other entities undertaking quantum activities in the UK, they must seek government approval before the transaction completes.
Businesses should also consider enhancing current encryption protocols and review their cyber security arrangements and ensure their supply chain contracts properly manage supply chain risks.
Quantum computing is a powerful and exciting new technology that has the potential to revolutionize many aspects of our lives. However, as with any new technology, there are legal issues that need to be addressed. As a result, governments and regulatory bodies will need to develop new regulations and laws to ensure that the development and use of quantum computing is done in a safe and responsible way. This may include restrictions on the development of certain types of quantum computing technologies or the use of quantum computing for certain purposes. It is hoped that the Regulatory Horizons Council, in its regulatory review of quantum technology, pays close attention to these legal and ethical issues and develops a safe way for quantum technologies to be further developed.
These notes have been prepared for the purpose of articles only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.