As Russia continues its unprovoked armed aggression, Reports from Ukraine Note that a smartphone in a civilian’s pocket can be “a weapon as powerful as a rocket and a cannon”.In fact, the country’s technologists have been quick to create brilliant applications to keep citizens safe and assist in warfare – all from Air Raid Alert App Rapid reuse of the government’s Diia app.The latter was once used by more than 18 million Ukrainians for things like digital IDs, but now it allows users to report Movement of the invading soldiers Via the “Electronic Enemy” feature. “Anyone can help our army find the Russian army. Use our chatbot to inform the armed forces,” the Ministry of Digital Transformation said when launching the new feature.
Naturally, the Ukrainian people want to defend their country and help their army in any way possible. However, certain uses of digital technology pose a fundamental challenge to the traditional distinction between modern civilians and combatants.
Technically, once a theater user picks up a smartphone to assist the military, both technology and individuals can be considered sensors or nodes, in a practice known as ISR—Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance. Inviting citizens to be a potential element in military systems, as the electronic enemy function does, could blur the lines between civilians and combat activities.
This principle of distinction In between these two roles is an important cornerstone of international humanitarian law, the law of armed conflict, which has been codified by decades of customs and laws such as the Geneva Conventions. Those considered civilians and civilian targets must not be attacked by the military; since they are not combatants, they should be spared. At the same time, they should not act as combatants – if they do, they may lose that status.
The conundrum, therefore, is how to classify the civilians who use smartphones as potential active participants in military sensor systems. (To be clear, just installing an app is not enough to lose protection status. What matters is actual usage.) Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions It states that civilians enjoy protection from “dangers arising from military action unless they are directly involved in hostilities”. Legally, if civilians engage in military activity, such as using weapons to take part in hostilities, they lose their protected status, “influenced” “during their direct participation in hostilities”[s] military action,” according to International Committee of the Red Cross, the traditional impartial guardian of international humanitarian law.Even if the person in question is the case not a full member of the armed forces. By losing civilian status, a person may become a legitimate military target, running the risk of being directly attacked by the military.
Perhaps the most obvious solution to this confusion is to accept that user-civilians temporarily lose their protected civilian status, at least when using such apps. In some cases, this can be a minutes-long “state switch” as fast as taking a smartphone out of a pocket, taking a photo, or typing a text message. It does not engage in conflict directly and continuously, but sporadically. The problem with this interpretation, however, is that it doesn’t hold, and not all parties will necessarily agree with it. Things get more complicated if someone uses the app a lot. How is “regular” measured? How will the parties to the conflict accurately distinguish citizens? The power of some smartphones to turn civilians into “combatants” one minute and back into civilians the next brings unprecedented complexity to the long-standing laws of war.