Smartphones Blur the Line Between Civilian and Combatant
Ukraine has a population of about 45 million people. There are many ways to get information about what is happening in the country. One of those ways is using social media. People share news and pictures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms. Some people even create videos and post them online. These tools allow people to communicate with each other and spread information. Many people also use mobile phones to access the internet. Mobile phone companies provide free calls and text messages. People can also buy prepaid SIM cards that let them send and receive texts and emails. These SIM cards can be bought at stores or kiosks. You can also download apps onto your smartphone. Apps can be useful if you need to pay bills, check your bank account, or search for directions. In addition, there are apps that will tell you about weather conditions, traffic, and sports scores.
In Ukraine, the government wants to protect its people and help them during wartime. However, certain uses of digital technology present fundamental challenges to the traditional distinctions between civilians and combatants in the 21st century. Technically speaking, once an ordinary citizen picks up a phone to help the army, both the phone and the person could be considered sensors, nodes, in the practice called ISR intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. By inviting citizens to become a potential component of a military system, as e-Enemy does, it may blur the lines between civilian activity and combat.
In the context of war, there are two different types of actors: those who are combatants and those who are non-combatants. Non-combatants are not allowed to participate in hostilities, while combatants are allowed to fight. There are three categories of combatants: soldiers, police officers, and militia members. Soldiers are individuals who voluntarily join an army to fight against another country. Police officers are individuals who are employed by a government to enforce its laws. Militia members are individuals who are recruited by a government to fight against another country, usually because they are citizens of that country.
The conundrums are how to classify a civilian that uses their phone to become an active participant in a sensor network? If you’re reading this article, chances are you’ve already lost your protected status. You could be a target of a drone strike. But what about someone else? How does one protect them?
The most important thing to remember about the app is that it does not change your legal status. You remain a civilian unless you choose to switch to another mode. If you choose to switch modes, you become a combatant until you choose to return to civilian mode.
It is unclear what will happen to those who choose to become an irregular combatant. If they are captured, they may face prosecution under the laws of armed conflict. However, there is no law against using a phone while fighting. There is no law against spying either. So, it is possible that someone could be charged with both crimes.
Ukraine needs to be transparent with its citizens about the risks of using the app. The country also needs to assess the risk of losing its current legal status. These issues need to be addressed urgently, not in 20 years when the app will be outdated.
In the past, Russia has shown itself willing to break international law when it comes to their military operations. During the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia broke international law by using banned weapons against protesters in Ukraine. There were also reports that Russian soldiers killed civilians in Crimea during the annexation. These actions show that Russia does not respect international law, and if they continue to violate the law, then it will be hard to keep them within the boundaries of acceptable behavior.
Ukraine is facing an existential threat, and should do everything possible with the available resources. But its actions now could affect future models of behavior, and after some time these could become global norms, so it is important that this issue is recognized, assessed, and addressed now. The precedents set here will shape future armed conflict, and if we fail to address them, they could lead to the creation of a new norm. So it is critical that we understand what is happening, assess it, and respond appropriately.
While it is important to avoid sharing information about Ukraine’s military capabilities online, it is also essential to keep your phone safe. If you see something suspicious on your phone, delete it immediately. You should never share anything related to Ukraine’s military online. Doing so puts you at risk of becoming a target for Russian hackers.
Personal technology has become an integral part of our lives. We carry devices that allow us to communicate, share information, and connect with others. While we may not always realize it, we’re also using them to track each other, monitor our activities, and even spy on us. As long as we continue to use personal technology, we need to understand its implications. If we don’t, we risk violating the law of armed conflict.