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The security expertise of a relatively small group of digital infrastructure elites, including experts from Big Tech, transnational corporations, and critical infrastructure providers, are increasingly setting the ground rules for how critical digital infrastructures are developed and secured worldwide. Our research project explores both the anchors of digital trust and the global internet standardization bodies and forums in which these elites determine the functionalities of these technologies and protocols. First, we unpack the three main applications of encryption that are used as trust anchor in the digital world. Second, we examine how these trust anchors are co-produced by a small community of experts from Big Tech companies and digital infrastructure providers. Third, we explore the political implications of our findings for recent attempts at developing digital national sovereignty of Russia, China, Brazil, and supranational digital sovereignty of the EU.

The Team

Anneroos Planqué-van Hardeveld is a PhD candidate at the Department of Political Science at the University of Amsterdam. Her research examines how Google emerges as a security actor and unpacks how its platforms, infrastructures, and technical expertise shape security practices.

Niels ten Oever is a postdoctoral researcher with the ‘Making the hidden visible: Co-designing for public values in standards-making and governance’-project at the Media Studies department at the University of Amsterdam.

Stefania Milan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Media Studies and the Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis. Her research explores the interplay between digital infrastructure, political participation, and governance.