Kenneth is a Policy Officer on the Big Brother Inc project. He focuses on issues related to the export of surveillance technology, and supports PI's related advocacy work. He has previously worked in the public, private and NGO sectors in Ireland, Scotland and Brussels. Joining PI with a recent private sector public affairs background, he also has experience in communications and governmental relations after previously working with leading Brussels-based human rights organisations dealing with irregular migration, diplomatic advice, political strategy and wider human rights issues. Kenneth holds an LL.M in International Law from the University of Edinburgh as well as an MA (Hons) in the History of Modern International Relations from University College Dublin.
Surveillance companies selling mass and intrusive spy technologies to human rights-abusing governments often are benefitting from the financial and institutional support from their home government, revealing a more closely-linked relationship between the sector and the State than previously believed.
Only a few days after it was reported that intrusive surveillance technology developed and sold by Italian surveillance company Hacking Team was found in some of the most repressive countries in the world, Privacy International has uncovered evidence which suggests the company has received over €1 million in public financing.
Over the past half year, Privacy International has been investigating the sale of surveillance technology made by South African company VASTech to Libya and what role the government had in promoting and developing the system. Unfortunately, the government has been slow to respond to our questions and has offered only vague answers.
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.
On at least two separate occasions, the South African government has provided funding to a well-resourced surveillance company for the development of mass surveillance technologies, the very equipment found to be used by the Gaddafi's repressive military regime in Libya, according to documents uncovered by Privacy International.
Today's hearing was built up in some media circles as an historic ‘public grilling’ of the heads of the UK’s Intelligence Agencies as Mi5, Mi6 and GCHQ appeared in public in front of their oversight committee, the Intelligence and Security Committee.
Update: This week we received a response to our letters when we called on the President of the Swiss Confederation, Ueli Maurer, and the Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter, to step into the debate and refuse the licence applications for surveillance technology that are currently awaiting approval for export out of Switzerland. While their offices themselves did not reply to us, it is clear our message got through as the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) wrote to us on their behalf.
For some time now, Gamma International has been criticised for exporting dangerous surveillance technologies from the UK to repressive regimes. Now, we are learning that the company is taking its show on the road, as recent reports have said that Gamma are now attempting to export its products, including the spyware FinFisher, out of Switzerland.
Through our Big Brother Incorporated project, Privacy International over the past two years has been campaigning against the export of surveillance technologies by Western companies to repressive regimes.