Privacy International defends the right to privacy across the world, and fights surveillance and other intrusions into private life by governments and corporations. Read more »


Big Brother Inc.

Exposing the global trade in surveillance technologies and holding it to account

The global surveillance industry is estimated at $5 billion a year. The capabilities of surveillance technology have grown hugely in the past decade – in the hands of a repressive regime, this equipment eradicates free speech, quashes dissent and places dissidents at the mercy of ruling powers as effectively as guns and bombs, if not more so. However, export control regulations have not kept pace with this development, nor have companies taken it upon themselves to vet the governments to whom they sell their technology. The situation has now reached a crisis point: countries must enact strict export controls now, or be guilty of a staggering and continued hypocrisy with regard to global human rights.

Today, surveillance technology ranges from malware which infects a target computer to record every keystroke, to systems for tapping undersea fibre-optic cables in order to monitor the communications of entire populations. In countries where detention without trial, torture and extra-judicial killings are commonplace, these technologies imperil the lives of every activist and dissident. 

In 1995, PI published a report on the international trade in surveillance technology, focusing on the sale of technologies by companies in Western countries to repressive regimes intent on using them as tools of political control. Since then, thanks to the enormous profits involved and the wholesale failure of governments and regulators to intervene, this unethical (and in some cases unlawful) practice has only escalated. We therefore began a second investigation in July 2011, and we are now using a blend of research and investigation, public campaigning, political engagement and strategic litigation to bring to light the abuses of the surveillance industry and ensure that it is properly regulated in future. 

Our objectives are:

  1. To raise worldwide awareness of the dangers of surveillance technologies and the ethical failures of the surveillance industry.
  2. To ensure that export controls are put in place in Europe and the US to restrict the sale of surveillance technologies to repressive regimes.
  3. To seek redress for those who have suffered harm as a result of Western-manufactured surveillance technologies.

There is growing international momentum towards stricter regulation of surveillance technology exports. In the past year, the EU Parliament passed a resolution calling for stricter oversight of surveillance technology exports, President Obama announced an executive order to prevent such exports to Syria and Iran, and the French Secretary of State for the Digital Economy signalled a sea change in France’s export policies. The west must lead from the front, taking decisive action now to change export regulations, bringing its foreign and export policies in line, ending a staggering and damaging hypocrisy.

Surveillance Industry Index

Spy FilesThe Surveillance Industry Index is the largest catalogue of the private surveillance sector ever assembled, comprising of materials collected at surveillance trade shows around the world and information provided by Wikileaks and other organisations. Read more »

Surveillance Who's Who

Surveillance Who's WhoSurveillance Who's Who exposes the government agencies that attended six ISS World conferences between 2006 and 2009. ISS world is a surveillance trade show known to industry insiders as 'The Wiretappers' Ball'. Read more »

Global CAUSE

CAUSEThe Coalition Against Unlawful Surveillance Exports, made up of Privacy International, along with Amnesty International, Digitale Gesellschaft, FIDH, Human Rights Watch, the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, and Reporters without Borders, aims to hold governments and private companies accountable for the international trade in communication surveillance technologies. Read more »

Big Brother Inc.

In the media
Publisher: 
Heise Online
Publication date: 
15-Apr-2014
Original story link: 

Ob CAUSE, das international von Amnesty International, der internationalen Liga für Menschenrechte, dem Open Technology Institute und Privacy International unterstützt wird, wirklich Druck ausüben kann, wird sich zeigen. Die moralische Verantwortung der Hersteller von Überwachungssoftware ist offenbar kaum vorhanden. So wickelte Gamma ihre Geschäfte über eine Briefkastenfirma in Singapur ab oder versuchte, über eine Schweizer Firma Geschäfte zu machen. Immerhin gibt es Anzeichen dafür, dass Veröffentlichtungen etwas bewirken können. So ermittelte die französische Staatsanwaltschaft gegen die Firma Amesys, deren Produkte in Libyen und Syrien gefunden wurden.

In the media
Publisher: 
Deutsche Welle
Publication date: 
15-Apr-2014
Original story link: 

The new Coalition Against Unlawful Surveillance Exports has launched, which include rights groups like Privacy International.

In the media
Publisher: 
TechPresident
Publication date: 
08-Apr-2014
Author(s): 
Carola Frediani
Original story link: 

“What is unique about the CAUSE coalition are the groups that are part of it,” Mike Rispoli, Communication Manager of UK-based Privacy International, says to techPresident. “You have organizations like Privacy International, as well as Open Technology Institute or Digitale Gesellschaft, that focus on technology, digital rights, etc., but you also have more traditional human rights groups like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Reporters without Borders. The reason why this is so important is that there’s a broad recognition that surveillance technologies pose significant threat to the enjoyment of rights around the world, not just the right to privacy but also freedom of expression.”

“However, what we are seeing increasingly is that the types of governments buying these technologies have a horrendous track record in terms of human rights. So the company's standpoint can’t just be: ‘We are selling them for legitimate purposes,'" says Rispoli. "We would like to see more restrictions and regulations in place that would prevent the sale of these technologies to repressive regimes, just like how the traditional arm trade is controlled."

Blog
Kenneth Page's picture

Global problems require global solutions. One of the significant emerging threats to human rights and democracy today is the incredible and mostly unaccountable spread of surveillance technologies.

Press release

World leaders must commit to keeping invasive surveillance systems and technologies out of the hands of dictators and oppressive regimes, said a new global coalition of human rights organizations as it launched today in Brussels.

The Coalition Against Unlawful Surveillance Exports (CAUSE) – which includes Amnesty International, Digitale Gesellschaft, FIDH, Human Rights Watch, the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, Privacy International, and Reporters without Borders – aims to hold governments and private companies accountable for abuses linked to the US$5 billion and growing international trade in communication surveillance technologies. Governments are increasingly using spying software, equipment, and related tools to violate the right to privacy and a host of other human rights.

In the media
Publisher: 
The Associated Press
Publication date: 
04-Apr-2014
Original story link: 

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and London-based Privacy International are among those hoping to check the export of powerful spyware to unsavory governments.

In the media
Publisher: 
MediaPart
Publication date: 
04-Apr-2014
Original story link: 

Un groupe d’ONG, parmi lesquelles Amnesty International, la FIDH, Human Rights Watch, Reporters sans frontières, Privacy International, Digitale Gesellschaft ou encore l’Open Technologie Institute, a lancé vendredi 4 avril une Coalition contre l’exportation des technologies de surveillance (CAUSE).

In the media
Publisher: 
NetzPolitik
Publication date: 
25-Mar-2014
Author(s): 
Killian Froitzhuber
Original story link: 

Tim Maurer, Edin Omanovic und Ben Wagner haben für den Digitale Gesellschaft e. V., Privacy International, das Open Technology Institute und die New America Foundation eine Studie zur Problematik (englisch) verfasst, die sich mit den existierenden Regularien ebenso auseinandersetzt wie mit dem technologischen Wettrüsten auf diesem Gebiet und den Wechselwirkungen dieser Bereiche. Im Fokus stehen die Exportkontrollen in den USA, in Großbritannien, Deutschland und der EU sowie das multilaterale Wassenaar-Abkommen.

In the media
Publisher: 
Voice of America
Publication date: 
04-Apr-2014
Author(s): 
Cecily Hilleary
Original story link: 

CAUSE, comprising Amnesty International, Digitale Gesellschaft, FIDH, Human Rights Watch, the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, Privacy International and Reporters without Borders – cites a $5 billion international trade in communication surveillance technologies and wants to hold both governments and private companies accountable for governments abuse of spying software and related tools and equipment.

In the media
Publisher: 
Netzpolitik
Publication date: 
04-Apr-2014
Author(s): 
Anna Biselli
Original story link: 

Heute hat sich in Brüssel das Bündnis CAUSE (Coalition Against Unlawful Surveillance Exports) zusammengefunden, um gegen den Export von Überwachungstechnologien an undemokratische und repressive Regimes zu kämpfen. CAUSE besteht aus mehreren international vertretenen NGOs wie Amnesty International, FIDH, Human Rights Watch, dem Open Technology Institute, Privacy International, Reporter ohne Grenzen und der Digitalen Gesellschaft.

Pages

Subscribe to Big Brother Inc.