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: 
Radio Popolare
Publication date: 
04-Mar-2014
Original story link: 

Privacy International, one of the most respected and important organisations in the world that defend the right to privacy, wrote two letters including to the Minister and to President of Lombardy asking Roberto Maroni as to why they are financing Hacking Team.

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In the media
Publisher: 
The Post Internazionale
Publication date: 
04-Mar-2014
Author(s): 
Anna Ditta
Original story link: 

Queste scoperte hanno suscitato a livello internazionale richieste di regolamentazione delle aziende che, come Hacking Team, producono software di sorveglianza. Da ultimo, l’associazione internazionale per la tutela del diritto alla riservatezza, Privacy International, ha inviato ieri una lettera al ministro per lo sviluppo economico, Federica Guidi, chiedendo che il governo italiano faccia chiarezza sull’azienda milanese e stabilisca un efficace sistema di licenze per l’esportazione di questi software. L’organizzazione ha scritto inoltre al presidente della regione Lombardia, Roberto Maroni, perché faccia chiarezza sui soldi che nel 2007 Hacking Team ha ricevuto - 1,5 milioni di euro forniti da due fondi di venture capital, uno dei quali è “Finlombarda Gestioni Sgr”, che ha un unico azionista, “Finlombarda SpA”, cioè la finanziaria per lo sviluppo della regione Lombardia.

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In the media
Publisher: 
Neue Zurcher Zeitung
Publication date: 
18-Feb-2014
Author(s): 
Henning Steier
Original story link: 

Privacy International will die National Cybercrime Unit dazu bringen, eine Untersuchung im Fall Tadesse Kersmo einzuleiten. Der Äthiopier soll auch nach seiner Flucht nach Grossbritannien im Jahr 2009 mittels der einschlägig bekannten Spionagesoftware FinSpy des britisch-deutschen Anbieters Gamma Group abgehört worden sein. Wie die britische Bürgerrechtsorganisation in einer Medienmitteilung schreibt, verstösst das Abhören der Kommunikation durch einen ausländische Staat im Inland gegen diverse Gesetze.

In the media
Publisher: 
The Washington Post
Publication date: 
18-Feb-2014
Author(s): 
Craig Timberg
Original story link: 

Privacy International, an advocacy group based in Britain, filed a criminal complaint there Monday urging an investigation of the alleged use of FinSpy against an Ethio­pian political refu­gee based in the United Kingdom.

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In the media
Publisher: 
L'Espresso
Publication date: 
03-Mar-2014
Author(s): 
Stefania Maurizi
Original story link: 

Ora, però, a muoversi è una delle più importanti e rispettate organizzazioni del mondo per la difesa della privacy. Si chiama “Privacy International” (PI), appunto, e ha sede a Londra. PI ha appena inviato una lettera al ministro Federica Guidi, a capo dello Sviluppo economico del governo Renzi, e al presidente della regione Lombardia, Roberto Maroni, per chiedere spiegazioni sull'azienda milanese (la lettera è disponibile qui).

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In the media
Publisher: 
Wired Italy
Publication date: 
03-Mar-2014
Author(s): 
Carola Frediani
Original story link: 

Hacking Team ancora nel mirino degli attivisti per i diritti digitali. A pochi giorni di distanza dal rapporto di Citizen Lab (dato in anteprima su Wired.it) che mappava l’infrastruttura nascosta di server governativi che utilizzerebbero il software dell’azienda milanese per intercettare tutte le comunicazioni dei loro target, arriva ora una campagna lanciata da Privacy International. Quest’ultima è una nota Ong internazionale, con sede in Gran Bretagna, da tempo impegnata a difendere la privacy dei cittadini dall’ingerenza di Stati e dall’industria globale della sorveglianza (di alcune aziende italiane del settore abbiamo scritto qui).

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In the media
Publisher: 
Vice Motherboard
Publication date: 
24-Feb-2014
Author(s): 
Max Cherney
Original story link: 

“Conveniently for these companies,” said Edin Omanovic, a research officer with Privacy International, “the fact that they sell to government agencies who demand non-disclosure means that they can continue to operate under a shroud of secrecy away from public scrutiny and any form of real accountability.”

In the media
Publisher: 
Human IPO
Publication date: 
20-Feb-2014
Author(s): 
Chris Udemans
Original story link: 

Privacy International has lodged a criminal complaint to the United Kingdom’s (UK) National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU) of the National Crime Agency for the allegedly unlawful interception of personal communications of an Ethiopian political refugee living in the UK.

In the media
Publisher: 
The Independent
Publication date: 
17-Feb-2014
Author(s): 
Ian Burrell
Original story link: 

The charity Privacy International has made a criminal complaint to the agency’s National Cyber Crime Unit following the detection of the surveillance software FinSpy on a computer belonging to Tadesse Kersmo, who fled to Britain from Ethiopia in 2009.

In the media
Publisher: 
Mashable
Publication date: 
24-Feb-2014
Author(s): 
Lorezeno Franceschi-Bicchierai
Original story link: 

Despite both companies denying a special relationship with each other, some including Eric King, head of research at advocacy group Privacy International, are skeptical of their claims.

King, who has investigated companies like Hacking Team, FinFisher and Vupen for years as part of his organization's Big Brother Inc. project, said he remembered attending two surveillance trade shows three years ago. During the conferences, Hacking Team's sales representatives referred to Vupen as a company that sold exploits that would work well with Hacking Team's products, he told Mashable. However, King emphasized that he isn't suggesting there are formal agreements between the companies.

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