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Georgia Ardizzone's picture

Drones are back in the headlines, with the news that the Ministry of Defence plans to develop unmanned underwater vehicles for use in submarine warfare. Human rights groups have already raised concerns over the UK’s use of airborne military drones, which have played a key role in UK operations in Afghanistan since 2008. But drone technology is not limited to military uses: the deployment of ‘civilian’ drones, designed for use in home airspace, may be an emerging trend in UK policing.

Blog
Naomi Colvin's picture

Hacking Team is a supplier of “lawful intercept” technology based in Milan. A regular attendee of surveillance industry conferences around the world, last year one of the company’s founding partners told the Guardian that Hacking Team had sold surveillance software to 30 countries across five continents. 

Hacking Team’s marketing material promises that it can “defeat encryption” and “attack and control target PCs from a remote location” in a way that “cannot be detected”. The company has been very clear in the way it describes its ‘Da Vinci’ Remote Control System

It is spyware. It is a Trojan horse. It is a bug. It is a monitoring tool.” 

Blog
Eric King's picture

Earlier this year, Privacy International began research into the corporate social responsibility policies of companies that sell communications surveillance technology. Given that this technology is known to facilitate human rights abuses in repressive regimes around the world, surveillance tech companies that claims corporate responsibility might be expected to address such concerns in their CSR policy documents.

Of the 246 companies known to partake in the communications surveillance industry, only 62 had publicly available CSR policies. Of these, only four companies had policies that placed specific constraints on doing business with regimes that might use their technology to commit human rights abuses.

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Eric King's picture

As part of Privacy International's investigation into the mass surveillance industry we have examined hundreds of legal documents, brochures and, most recently, patents. Patents are a form of intellectual property; patent-holders publicly disclose their inventions in exchange for the exclusive rights to use and commercialise them for a limited period of time. Patent registries therefore provide a window into the otherwise murky world of the mass surveillance industry.

Blog
Dr Gus Hosein's picture

Governments have no automatic right of access to our communications. This will sound highly controversial to some, even downright radical. But the demands of national security and crime prevention do not, in fact, immediately trump every other right and responsibility in the complex relationship between citizen and state. 

The recent Skype argument is a great example. Skype has always prided itself on being a secure method of communication. Businesses, government agencies, human rights organisations and other groups that value security therefore adopted Skype wholesale - but now there are questions about how Skype allows access to its users' communications.

Some argue that, on a moral basis, Skype has to build its technology in such a way that permits government access. Others wrongly believe that they have a legal obligation to do so. But in whose interests does Skype develop its product?  

Blog
Carly Nyst's picture

Last week’s revelation that Bahraini human rights activists have been targeted by advanced surveillance technology made by British company Gamma is yet another nail in the coffin of privacy and freedom of expression in Bahrain.

Over the past ten years, Bahraini citizens, among the most internet-connected in the Middle East, have been subjected to increasingly oppressive controls on and intrusions into their online and offline lives. The internet is heavily patrolled, and free speech curtailed, by laws which prohibit the publication of material that is offensive to Islam or the king, or that are perceived as undermining state security or the monarchy. Content that is politically sensitive is censored, websites run by national and international non-governmental organisations are blocked, and bloggers, activists and movements are silenced. Moreover, a culture of self-censorship is pervading Bahrain as the government’s capacity for surveillance expands.

Blog
Eric King's picture

The recent acquisition of Skype by Microsoft, coupled with a series of infrastructural changes, has resulted in a flurry of responsesconcerns and analysis of exactly what kind of assistance Skype can provide to law enforcement agencies. Under this heightened scrutiny, Skype released a statement on their blog on 26th July, purporting to re-affirm their commitment to the privacy of their users.

Blog
Georgia Ardizzone's picture

Privacy International welcomes reports that the French Government has come out against the export of surveillance technology to oppressive regimes. According to the French website reflets.info, the State Secretary for the Digital Economy Fleur Pellerin announced her opposition to such exports last Friday, during a radio show hosted by Le Monde and public broadcaster FranceCulture. The statement may indicate a sea change in the government's policies regarding surveillance technology, which have until now been marked by significant investment in the sector.

Blog
Eric King's picture

Privacy International has compiled data on the privacy provisions in national constitutions around the world, including which countries have constitutional protections, whether they come from international agreements, what aspects of privacy are actually protected and when those protections were enacted. We are pleased to make this information available under a Creative Commons license for organizations, researchers, students and the community at large to use to support their work (and hopefully contribute to a greater understanding of privacy rights).

The categories

Though the right to privacy exists in several international instruments, the most effective privacy protections come in the form of constitutional articles. Varying aspects of the right to privacy are protected in different ways by different countries. Broad categories include:

Blog
Emma Draper's picture

Bloomberg reported today that security researchers have identified FinFisher spyware - "one of the world’s best-known and elusive cyber weapons" - in malicious emails sent to Bahraini pro-democracy activists, including a naturalized U.S. citizen who owns gas stations in Alabama, a London-based human rights activist and a British-born economist in Bahrain.

Analysis of the emails by CitizenLab (a project based within the University of Toronto Munk School of Global Affairs) revealed that they contained trojans that infected the target device and then proceeded to take screen shots, intercept voice-over-Internet calls and transmit a record of every keystroke to a computer in the Bahraini capital Manama. The computer code of the malicious program contained multiple instances of the word 'FinSpy'.

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