The Council of the European Union today reinforced restrictive measures on EU exports to Iran, banning "exports of equipment and software intended for use in the monitoring or interception of internet and telephone communications by the Iranian authorities".
ZTE markets its monitoring system as low-cost and user-friendly. In May 2008, the firm made a presentation to the government-controlled Iran Telecommunication Research Center about its latest networking products, including the "ZTE Lawful Intercept Solution," according to Privacy International, a London-based non-profit that advocates the right to privacy and obtained a copy of the presentation.
Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International, is not impressed.
"Not content with collecting vast amounts of information from your online activities, it seems Google are looking to start exploiting the offline space as well. Patents like this may never come to fruition, but they force us to ask ourselves: how many aspects of our lives will advertisers try to exploit, and where will it end?
"This is an attempt to turn our devices into personal spying devices, just so a company can try to sell you a coat on a cold day."
People often ask me why I investigate the surveillance trade - surely the police and intelligence services need these technologies to prevent serious crime and terrorism? I tell them that I completely agree - targeted surveillance, conducted within strict legal frameworks, can be a socially useful tool. However, vast swathes of the industry are in a different business altogether: mass surveillance.
And then there is Eric King, human rights advisor to Privacy International, who had been investigating the use of surveillance technology by authoritarian regimes for over a year—and who subsequently minced no words when it came to addressing those who furnished the wares, saying that Western companies were going "out of their way" to aid authoritarian regimes. When I recently spoke with him by telephone, King told me of people in post-revolutionary Libya and Egypt who had been sending him pictures of technology that had been acquired by their respective deposed regimes.
Today, 60 countries worldwide operate national DNA databases, and at least 34 more are considering putting them in place. The use of DNA evidence in criminal investigations can bring great benefits to society, helping to solve crimes, convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent. However, the mass storage of DNA samples and computerized profiles in databases raises important human rights concerns. Your DNA profile can be used to track you or your relatives.
On Friday, we wrote to 140 companies around the world that are known to be selling surveillance technology, to ask them a series of questions. We wanted to know whether or not companies conducted human rights due diligence when dealing with foreign companies or governments, how many of them were doing business or seeking to do business with 'Not Free' countries (as categorised by Freedom House's latest report), and whether any of them would be interested in meeting with us to discuss their human rights policies.
PI spent the first half of February in Asia, visiting our regional partners and speaking at events. Our trip began in Delhi, where the Centre for Internet and Society (in collaboration with the Society in Action Group) had organized two consecutive privacy conferences – an invite-only conclave on Friday 3rd February and a free symposium open to the public on Saturday 4th February. The conclave consisted of two panels, the first focusing on the relationship between national security and privacy, the second on privacy and the Internet.
Google’s challenge is to convince its non-technical users that these distinctions are meaningful – especially when many suspect its real objective is aiming not for improving its services but at sharpening its competitive edge. “This is about the fact that Facebook owns a massive space on the internet and Google doesn’t,” said Gus Hosein of Privacy International. “Google is trying to create a space by bringing together all its properties. But it is leaving the consumer in the dirt.”
Earlier this week it was announced that UK-based Datasift would start offering their customers the ability to mine Twitter’s past two years of tweets for market research purposes. The licensing fees will add another revenue stream to Twitter's portfolio - but at what cost to the company's reputation? Twitter, once the darling of the privacy world, seems to have lost its way.
Privacy International, one of the world's leading privacy organizations, last year released the results of a multi-year investigation into the shadowy world of the commercial surveillance industry. Dubbed "Big Brother Inc.," the investigation placed the spotlight on dozens of companies that specialize in covert surveillance technologies that are typically sold directly to governments and law enforcement agencies...The Privacy International investigation revealed that surveillance companies commonly promote virtually unlimited monitoring capabilities to governments and police agencies.
Private data is a goldmine to advertisers, who use it to target their marketing.
Emma Draper, of campaigners Privacy International, said: "Your personal information is a precious commodity, and companies will go to great lengths to get their hands on it."
In an advertisement placed in national newspapers yesterday (23rd February), the National ICT R&D Fund of Pakistan (which operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Information Technology) requested proposals for "the development, deployment and operation of a national level URL Filtering and Blocking System". Further information provided on the Fund's website stated:
Security services could, on request, gain a real-time access to information for people under surveillance.
Gus Hosein, of Privacy International, said: “This will be ripe for hacking. Every hacker, every malicious threat, every foreign government is going to want access to this.”
A Home Office spokesman said that the proposals were necessary to help track down and charge terrorists.
An astonishing 13-page investigation by Osman Kibar at Dagens Næringsliv has revealed that Norway has invested over $2 billion in 15 companies that manufacture and sell surveillance technologies - and that the government has no plans to divest investments in companies that are complicit in human rights abuses abroad.
According to a joint report released by Privacy international and the Wall Street Journal, government agencies in the UK - such as the Home Office and SOCA - have been attending the ISS World...Privacy International points out it is not just the FBI that is looking at the latest in spyware, there are also small town police forces and even the US Fish and Wildlife Service, engaged as it is in the pursuit of underwater espionage.
The wide variety of attendees has raised questions from privacy groups. “We expected to see the Department of Defense on this list, but not a local police department with just ten employees,” said Eric King, human rights and technology adviser at Privacy International. Mr. King said the documents indicate that technological intelligence-gathering is becoming more widespread.
Wikileaks and Privacy International have released the spy files that brought together brochures and other marketing material for almost 160 intelligence contractors - all in one place. Now we have another piece in the surveillance industry puzzle. ISS World publishes lists of attendees on their website - not prominantly but you can find them if you know where to look. Here's an example sent to us from Privacy International showing attending agencies at the trade show in Prague in 2008....
In collaboration with the Wall Street Journal and the Guardian, Privacy International today published a database of all attendees at six ISS World surveillance trade shows, held in Washington DC, Dubai and Prague between 2006 and 2009.
Privacy India, the Centre for Internet and Society and the Society in Action Group, with support from Privacy International, have spent 18 months studying the state of privacy across India, conducting consultations in Kolkata, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Guwahati, Chennai and Mumbai. On Friday (3rd February 2012), the results of their research were discussed by representatives from government, industry, media and civil society at a high-level conclave in Delhi.
The London-based campaign group, Privacy International, said it was worried about the consequences of such activities.
"Social networks are about connecting people with other people - if one person is the target of police monitoring, there will be a dragnet effect in which dozens, even hundreds, of innocent users also come under surveillance," said Gus Hosein, the group's executive director.
"It is not necessarily the case that the more information law enforcement officers have, the safer we will be.
Privacy International spokesperson Emma Draper believes that the use of such technology has worrying implications.
“The NYPD's plans to extend the range of the technology to 25 metres strongly suggests that this technology is ultimately intended for scanning entire streets, rather than targeting specific individuals,” she told TechEye.
“This would render the whole idea of 'probable cause' irrelevant - you would be subject to a virtual stop-and-search simply because you happened to walk past a scanner, without even knowing that your privacy had been infringed.”
Privacy International, a London-based campaign organisation, said it was still not satisfied with the change.
"This is a sidestep, not a step forward," said Gus Hosein, the group's executive director.
"We would like to see an identity policy that allows for multiple simultaneous identities relevant to each circle and each interaction. That's how the real world works.
"Only a company with engineers as bright as Google's could make this a reality, so until that happens we will remain disappointed."
Technology that tracks customers as they navigate shopping centres by picking up signals from their mobile phones has come under fire from civil rights campaigners and consumers...Gus Hosein, the executive director of Privacy International, said: "Simply notifying people that their every move is being tracked does not absolve Path Intelligence or the shopping centres that install their technology. Until a proper opt-out is introduced, this technology will be a serious threat to personal privacy."
In an empty hotel restaurant after lunch, Eric King, the human rights and technology adviser at London-based Privacy International, is poring over conference presentations he’s obtained and tallying a growing list of suspicious technological glitches. When he tries to send an e-mail from his Apple Inc. laptop, he gets a message that his encryption won’t work.
Privacy International, a non-profit “watchdog” organisation, said the audit presented a “damning assessment of the company’s approach to privacy”, which it described as “patchy and unstable”.
“Even as a charitable assessment by Europe’s softest privacy regulator it has unravelled a mass of difficult privacy issues,” said Privacy International’s Simon Davies. “The Irish audit is a promising start but other privacy regulators should now conduct rigorous assessments into the unexplored dynamics of the site.”
Tatiana Lucas’s calculated flag-waving and her invocation of the modern-day bogeyman of unemployment in her letter to the Wall Street Journal today was both distasteful and dishonest. TeleStrategies Inc (which runs the ISS World conferences) has as much interest in creating jobs for US citizens as it does in protecting the lives of Iranian political dissidents: none whatsoever. The ISS World conferences host companies from all over the world, including China.