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Issue

Developing Countries

Some of the world’s most invasive surveillance systems are being deployed in countries where individuals are most at risk. Developing countries are considered growth markets for biometric systems, health informatics, visual surveillance and expansive communications surveillance technologies, and citizens of these countries tend to lack the legal and technical means to defend themselves.

It has been argued that privacy is a Western luxury, and even a potential impediment to progress. Yet privacy is a universal human right, and our experiences in developing countries have shown us that, despite cultural differences, there is a deep common interest in information privacy and personal data protection amongst citizens and consumers in every economy. Privacy helps create a sense of human autonomy and dignity, and is therefore in many ways synonymous with progress.

However, local NGOs advocating for privacy in developing countries often struggle with uninterested governments and uncomprehending courts. There is comparatively little understanding of the nuanced relationships between privacy, security and development, or of the complex technologies involved. The default position of the authorities is often to collect as much information on as many people as possible, and human rights are rarely taken into account.

Our work in developing countries focuses on increasing the capacity of local groups and institutions to understand new risks and respond to developments in their countries. We help them to raise awareness of privacy issues in the local population, and to ensure that the public debate on privacy is well-informed and accurate. We also review key policy developments in a number of countries and assess their compliance with national constitutional requirements, international human rights conventions, and consumer protection norms.

Developing Countries

Blog
Anna Crowe's picture

News that the United Nations is using drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) to collect information in the troubled east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) illustrates the growing use – and acceptance - of surveillance technologies in humanitarian operations.

The deployment of two drones by the UN Stabilisation Mission (MONUSCO) in the DRC last week, to assist the Mission in fulfilling its mandate to protect civilians, had been long foreshadowed, with requests for their use in the eastern DRC dating back to 2008; the UN Security Council effectively authorised MONUSCO to use drones in January 2013 following a 2012 letter from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commenting on the ability of drones “to enhance situational awareness and permit timely decision-making” in the eastern DRC.

Blog
Kenneth Page's picture

The proliferation of private companies across the world developing, selling and exporting surveillance systems used to violate human rights and facilitate internal repression has been largely due to the lack of any meaningful regulation.

But a huge step toward finally regulating this billion-dollar industry was taken this week, when on Wednesday night the 41 countries that make up the Wassenaar Arrangement, the key international instrument that imposes controls on the export of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies, released a statement describing their intention to finally clamp down on this trade.

Blog
Anna Crowe's picture

Through the Aiding Privacy project, Privacy International is promoting the development of international standards around data protection in the humanitarian and development fields and working with relevant organisations to make this happen.

Blog
Anna Crowe's picture

The drive for accountability in aid spending has put humanitarian and development agencies under pressure to collect an ever-growing amount of data about those who receive their assistance. Donors also increasingly demand that new technologies are deployed to ensure aid reaches those it is targeted at; preventing people from fraudulently using refugees’ identities, for example, was a key motivation behind UNHCR’s recent introduction of biometric technology to register Syrian refugees in Jordan.

In the media
Publisher: 
Motherboard
Publication date: 
19-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Derek Mead
Original story link: 

The document trove, called the Surveillance Industry Index (SII) and released by Privacy International, and contains 1,203 documents from 338 companies in 36 countries, all of which detail surveillance technologies. Some advertised capabilities are astounding: A firm named Glimmerglass, which produces monitoring and repair equipment for undersea cables, touts in a brochure that its equipment enables "dynamic selection and distribution of signals for analysis and storage."

In the media
Publisher: 
The Guardian
Publication date: 
18-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Nick Hopkins and Matthew Taylor
Original story link: 

The documents are included in an online database compiled by the research watchdog Privacy International, which has spent four years gathering 1,203 brochures and sales pitches used at conventions in Dubai, Prague, Brasilia, Washington, Kuala Lumpur, Paris and London. Analysts posed as potential buyers to gain access to the private fairs.

The database, called the Surveillance Industry Index, shows how firms from the UK, Israel, Germany, France and the US offer governments a range of systems that allow them to secretly hack into internet cables carrying email and phone traffic.

Blog
Anna Crowe's picture

Humanitarian agencies are collecting personal information for Syrians caught in the crossfire of a drawn-out and bloody civil war. Indeed, refugees fleeing persecution and conflict, need to access services and protection offered by the world’s humanitarian community. But in the rush to provide necessary aid to those afflicted by the crisis in Syria, humanitarian organisations are overlooking a human right that also needs protecting: the right to privacy.

Humanitarian and aid agencies are creating surveillance systems that collect and retain personal data with no standards or data protection principles in place. There are very real risks involved, including the creation of databases filled with the personal data of a vulnerable population. Good intentions aside, failing to protect information of Syrians could have the opposite effect: these communities will be more, not less, at risk.

Blog
Matthew Rice's picture

Privacy International is pleased to announce the Surveillance Industry Index, the most comprehensive publicly available database on the private surveillance sector.

Over the last four years, Privacy International has been gathering information from various sources that details how the sector sells its technologies, what the technologies are capable of and in some cases, which governments a technology has been sold to. Through our collection of materials and brochures at surveillance trade shows around the world, and by incorporating certain information provided by Wikileaks and Omega Research Foundation, this collection of documents represents the largest single index on the private surveillance sector ever assembled. All told, there are 1,203 documents detailing 97 surveillance technologies contained within the database. The Index features 338 companies that develop these technologies in 36 countries around the world.

Opinion piece
Carly Nyst's picture

The following is an excerpt from a Comment originally publihsed by The Guardian, written by Privacy International's Head of Advocacy, Carly Nyst:

From databases to mobile phone apps and SMS systems, GPS tracking and humanitarian drones to biometric registration, new technologies are rapidly becoming central to the delivery of humanitarian and development aid.

Refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict are having their irises scanned and their identity documents digitised. Nurses in Nigeria are using SMS systems to communicate HIV test results to health facilities. Cash is being delivered to those living in Kenya's slums through the M-Pesa mobile-phone banking system.

Blog
Anna Crowe's picture

Privacy International today is proud to announce our new project, Aiding Privacy, which aims to promote the right to privacy and data protection in the development and humanitarian fields. Below is an outline of the issues addressed in our new report released today, Aiding Surveillance.

New technologies hold great potential for the developing world. The problem, however, is that there has been a systematic failure to critically contemplate the potential ill effects of deploying technologies in development and humanitarian initiatives, and in turn, to consider the legal and technical safeguards required in order to ensure the rights of individuals living in the developing world.

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