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Bahrain

Bahrain

In the media
Publisher: 
Guardian
Publication date: 
12-May-2013
Original story link: 

Last November, the campaign group Privacy International provided a dossier of evidence against Gamma International to HM Revenue and Customs, urging it to investigate whether there had been any breach of the export control regime.

Blog
Chloe Shuffrey's picture

On 1st February 2013 Privacy International, together with the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Bahrain Watch and Reporters without Borders, filed complaints with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) against Gamma International, a company that exports “FinFisher” (or “FinSpy”) intrusive surveillance software, and Trovicor GmbH, a German company (formerly a business unit of Siemens) which also sells internet monitoring and mass surveillance products. The complaints ask the UK and German National Contact Points (NCPs), to ascertain whether the technology companies have breached the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises by exporting surveillance products to Bahrain, where the authorities use such products in human rights abuses.

In the media
Publisher: 
The Observer
Publication date: 
03-Feb-2013
Author(s): 
Jamie Doward
Original story link: 

The allegations raise concerns about the export of British technology to oppressive regimes. Tomorrow the campaigners Privacy International will join forces with human rights groups, including the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and Bahrain Watch, to file a complaint with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development alleging that Gamma International UK is in breach of OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises. A separate complaint is being filed against a German company.

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According to Privacy International, Gamma's FinFisher (or FinSpy) suite of software products "is a particularly dangerous and sophisticated piece of surveillance technology" that is difficult to detect. The software targets individuals' devices and then relays information back to the sender, including the contents of all emails, Skype conversations and address books.
 

Press release

Privacy International, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Bahrain Watch and Reporters without Borders filed formal complaints with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the UK and Germany against two surveillance companies on Friday 1st February. The British and German National Contact Points are being asked to investigate Gamma International and Trovicor respectively with regards to both companies’ potential complicity in serious human rights abuses in Bahrain

In the media
Publisher: 
Russia Today
Publication date: 
27-Dec-2012
Original story link: 

Privacy rights activists are calling on HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to investigate spyware firm Gamma International and its exports of surveillance software to repressive regimes, such as Bahrain, calling the transactions “criminal” and “illegal”.

The campaign group Privacy International (PI) confirmed in a press release that Gamma International is selling surveillance technology to regimes with horrific human rights records without a proper license.

The software being sold is powerful enough to intercept text messages, phone and Skype calls, remotely turn on cameras and microphones, log keystrokes and copy files, The Guardian reported.

The activist group sent a 186-page report to HMRC, saying that that technology sold is being used to spy on activists, who are later targeted by repressive regimes and "amounts to criminal conduct".

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PI is calling for greater restrictions on export of UK’s surveillance software, arguing that it is not guarded by the same export laws as traditional weapons.

"For years, British companies like Gamma International have had carte blanche to sell incredibly powerful surveillance technologies to any government that can afford them, even when they are subsequently used to target human rights defenders,” head of research at Privacy International, Eric King, told The Guardian.

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Due to PI’s efforts, the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills advised Gamma International that the FinSpy products have been controlled by EU legislation since 2000 and “require a license” in order to export outside the EU. This means that the tech firm would have to disclose the names of suppliers is exports to.

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
The Guardian
Publication date: 
27-Dec-2012
Author(s): 
Alexandra Topping
Original story link: 

The campaign group Privacy International alleges the equipment has been used to gather information on activists who are targeted by the repressive regimes. It wants greater restrictions on the export of surveillance products, which are increasingly being used but are increasingly used but have not had the same level of export restrictions as traditional weapons. The group has sent a 186-page report to Revenue and Customs (HMRC) alleging that the unlicensed export of some Gamma International products "would amount to criminal conduct".

"For years, British companies like Gamma International have had carte blanche to sell incredibly powerful surveillance technologies to any government that can afford them, even when they are subsequently used to target human rights defenders. Gamma International is one of the worst culprits; it does business with regimes that most companies would not touch with a bargepole," said Eric King, head of research at Privacy International.

The organisation argues that Gamma – which insists it does comply with export controls – has been exporting its products without licences in place and has called on HMRC to investigate.

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Privacy International says the rules in place were insufficient and wants controls on surveillance technology overhauled. "The fact that some controls have been in place for over a decade but appear not to have been enforced suggests the government policy on this kind of technology is patchy at best. We need to ensure all surveillance technology is properly controlled: these are digital arms and need to be treated with the same vigour as traditional weaponry," said King.

The organisation argues that Gamma had a responsibility before it was explicitly informed by the business department to check if it needed an export licence and have the necessary licences in place.

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Privacy International's document to the HMRC also alleges that Bahraini pro-democracy activists received emails containing malware that, when analysed by researchers at the Toronto-based Citizen Lab, contained "strong evidence that the malware in question was "FinSpy … distributed by Gamma International". Gamma said: "We have no knowledge of any operation involving those named in the article."

Blog
Eric King's picture

Privacy International’s campaign for effective export controls of surveillance technology is still ongoing, but for one company, action can already be taken by HM Revenue & Customs to hold stop their unethical practices. Here is the story so far...

Press release

Privacy International has called upon HM Revenue & Customs to investigate potentially illegal exports by the British company Gamma International, which has been exporting surveillance products without a license to repressive regimes with dismal human rights records. 

On Friday 9th November, Privacy International's Eric King wrote to HMRC with a 186-page dossier of evidence against Gamma. HMRC is the body responsible for enforcing export regulations and policies set by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), and has the power to bring criminal proceedings against companies that disregard these rules.

Press release

In a letter sent earlier in August to Privacy International's lawyers Bhatt Murphy, a representative of the Treasury Solicitor stated:

The Secretary of State, having carried out an assessment of the FinSpy system to which your letter specifically refers, has advised Gamma International that the system does require a licence to export to all destinations outside the EU under Category 5, Part 2 (‘Information Security’) of Annex I to the Dual-Use Regulation. This is because it is designed to use controlled cryptography and therefore falls within the scope of Annex I to the Dual-Use Regulation. The Secretary of State also understands that other products in the Finfisher portfolio could be controlled for export in the same way."

In the media
Publisher: 
Deutsche Welle
Publication date: 
05-Sep-2012
Author(s): 
Ben Knight
Original story link: 

Eric King, head of research at UK organization Privacy International, where he runs the Big Brother Incorporated project, said he doesn't believe Gamma's malware was stolen.

"Gamma Group is one of the scariest surveillance companies that exists," he told DW. "They have no internal guidelines on who and where they sell their equipment to, beyond laws that are currently in place. Which sounds like a reasonable defense, apart from the fact that there are none. There are no laws at all that govern the export or sale of surveillance technology anywhere in the world.

"The first time that their product was discovered in Egypt, Gamma insisted that it was simply a trial, and the second time, over in Bahrain, they said all of a sudden that their technology had been stolen," King said. "It's getting more and more farcical."

King said it is impossible to verify whether Gamma is lying about the theft because ECAs do not keep records of surveillance software.

"Questions have been asked in the Houses of Parliament, and the British government is saying we don't know anything," he said. "Uncovering the contractual details between a highly secretive organization and what is effectively a foreign intelligence service usually ends up being a mammoth task. That's why Gamma Group is quite happily dismissing things and pointing people in the other direction."

For that reason, groups like Privacy International are lobbying for tighter regulation on surveillance technology. But in the meantime, King said, "Gamma Group, like a number of other companies that are currently peddling their wares to dictators, need to start talking honestly about their customers and coming clean about their business practices."

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