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Exporting lethal surveillance tech: UK asked to investigate spyware firm

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.

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