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: 
The Verge
Publication date: 
20-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Jacob Kastrenakes
Original story link: 

Advocacy group Privacy International has put together an extensive report on the powerful surveillance technologies being sold by private companies. The findings, it says, are "downright scary" and show that private companies are capable of acquiring spying tools just as capable as what the NSA and GCHQ are using. The details have all been collected in a database called the Surveillance Industry Index, which details the offerings of over 300 companies from across the globe. Some of the technologies being sold include a Trojan that can turn on a webcam and capture photos, software for eavesdropping, and tools that can wiretap undersea cables.

In the media
Publisher: 
Gizmodo
Publication date: 
20-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Adam Clark Estes
Original story link: 

The anti-surveillance group Privacy International just published a massive store of documents related to private companies selling surveillance equipment on the global market, and the contents are unsettling. In total, there are 1,203 documents detailing 97 different surveillance technologies, including everything from sophisticated spy cameras to software that can intercept phone call data, text messages and emails—just like the NSA does. The companies are also marketing these things to some of the world's worst despots.

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

Stanley spoke as a new database revealed the number of private firms now selling spying tools and mass surveillance technologies. Some of the systems allow countries to snoop on millions of emails, text messages and phone calls.

The Surveillance Industry Index, which was compiled by Privacy International, has more than 1,200 brochures gathered from private trade fairs over the last four years. The events give firms a chance to tout powerful capabilities that are usually associated with government agencies such as GCHQ and its US counterpart, the National Security Agency.

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
Spiegel Online
Publication date: 
19-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Judith Horchert
Original story link: 

Die Menschenrechtsorganisation Privacy International hat den Surveillance Industry Index (SII) veröffentlicht, eine Übersicht von Firmen, die Überwachungstechnologie anbieten. Zu sehen gibt es mehr als 1200 Dokumente von 338 Firmen in 36 Ländern, darunter auch Deutschland.

ANZEIGE
Vier Jahre haben die Aktivisten gebraucht, um die Übersicht zusammenzustellen. Sie bauen auf den von WikiLeaks veröffentlichten Spy Files auf, aber es sind auch 400 bisher unveröffentlichte Dokumente dabei; geholfen hat unter anderem die Omega Research Foundation.

In the media
Publisher: 
Russia Today
Publication date: 
20-Nov-2013
Original story link: 

Human rights groups are sounding alarms as Western firms sell mass surveillance technology in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, equipping governments and companies new capabilities to snoop on citizens.

Despite the public outcry over mass global surveillance being carried out by the NSA and the GCHQ, brought to light in May by US whistleblower Edward Snowden, the scandal has not prevented tech companies and countries from closing contracts on spy technology.

That was the conclusion by Privacy International, a surveillance technology watchdog that has spent four years studying over 1,000 brochures and seminars used at technology fairs in major cities around the world, including in Dubai, Prague, Brasilia, Kuala Lumpur, Paris and London, the Guardian reported.

In the media
Publisher: 
Il Mattino
Publication date: 
19-Nov-2013
Original story link: 

 L'elenco delle compagnie, pubblicato da Privacy International dopo 4 anni di lavoro, include anche un azienda italiana, la Hacking Team, fondata nel 2003 e basata - si legge nel rapporto - a Milano. Il rapporto sottolinea che «la normativa italiana per l'esportazione non regola nello specifico queste tecnologie, quindi possono finire facilmente nelle mani sbagliate». La ditta italiana sarebbe in grado di fornire sistemi di intercettazione per i cellulari come iPhone, Blackberrie e quelli basati su Windows o Symbian.

Countries: 
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.

In the media
Publisher: 
My Broadband
Publication date: 
19-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Jan Vermuelen
Original story link: 

Privacy International (PI), a UK-based privacy rights group, recently wrote a letter to Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, regarding grants to the tune of R3.6-million provided to VASTech.

VASTech is one of the South African companies linked to to the so-called mass surveillance industry by WikiLeaks, which said VASTech’s Zebra system was used in Libya by Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
HTXT.Africa
Publication date: 
08-Nov-2013
Author(s): 
Adam Oxford
Original story link: 

Human rights organisation Privacy International (PI) has written to the South African government to ask why the Department of Trade and Industry used R3 563 506.45 of public money to fund the development of a telecoms surveillance tool capable of capturing up to 40 million minutes of voice calls a month, which was deployed by the  Libyan regime under Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

Countries: 

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