When we think of deemed and hand-carried, and controlled technology compliance, it tends to be in the context of staff or faculty travelling abroad, or visitors coming to offices and other premises. But that may no longer be the case due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
To date, little guidance seems to have been issued by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) and other government agencies with regards to rules surrounding controlled technology compliance management for those operating out of remote workplaces. But even with international travel essentially halted, and most facilities closed to visitors due to COVID-19, controlled technology management remains critical to export compliance.
Sharing controlled technology remotely is still sharing controlled technology
Irrespective of how blueprints, technical specifications, and otherwise, are shared—in this case via video or online chat meetings, such as Zoom, etc.—the same legal obligations still apply. In fact, they may now be even more important as data is transferred over new communication methods than in the past. This can make the information vulnerable to an accidental compliance violation, making it critical that export compliance measures and processes remain in place.
- screening for denied and restricted parties prior to having a call, attempting to initiate a sale, or collaborating with global peers,
- ensuring, by way of screening, that those you are sharing controlled data with are not located in countries facing sanctions and embargoes, or which require special licenses (i.e., for humanitarian reasons)
- taking measures to obtain the appropriate licenses to share information related to controlled technologies, regardless of geographic location,
- checking that you have properly classified the data, and
- generally speaking, taking export compliance measures just as seriously in this era (hopefully only temporary) of a dispersed workforce.
Collaborating remotely may be key to beating COVID-19
Sharing biotechnology and other Coronavirus research remotely—among fellow global health experts—in an effort to develop a treatment or a vaccine is likely going to play a significant role in helping to crack the curse of this international pandemic. However, it takes only a quick review of the BIS’ “Don’t let this happen to you” document to understand the potential penalties that can result when providing access related to biotechnology with a denied or restricted party.
And this is not taking into account the ongoing need to physically transport controlled items and data. Shipments still need to be screened for denied parties, and sanctioned and embargoed countries, as well as have the proper licenses, and other required government export documents, in order to better facilitate the movement of critical life-saving goods and information.
The long and short of deemed and hand-carried compliance during COVID-19
The long, is that there is no short, not since at least 9/11. Export compliance as it relates to sharing technology, which includes biotechnology, has been around for decades. But just because travel across borders has all but stopped, and with many organizations prohibiting visitors entirely, it does not negate the requirements to ensure that controlled technologies are not shared with those who would use them for harm rather than good. And that is the reason why such compliance requirements exist in the first place.