Private companies across the world are developing, selling and exporting surveillance systems that are used to violate human rights and facilitate internal repression, all with little accountability.
According to news reports and evidence gathered, our map shows where the technologies come from, who builds them, and who buys them.
Governments need to begin regulating this trade by updating export laws, to encourage moral responsibility amongst private companies and to prevent their technologies from empowering dictatorships and oppressive regimes with powerful surveillance systems.
Global problems require global solutions. The CAUSE brings together internationally focused NGOs and others, to coordinate an international call for action from national governments and regional institutions, as well as raising wider awareness of the privatised surveillance industry and the damaging impact the technologies have on human rights.
We, the undersigned organisations, express our grave concern at the development and the irresponsible sale and export of surveillance technologies across the world, where they are being used by oppressive and authoritarian regimes for internal repression of their citizens and in violation of a range of fundamental human rights.
No country seems off limits to companies that create and sell these damaging surveillance tools: various reports document their use in countries as diverse as Bahrain, Turkmenistan, Egypt, Morocco and Ethiopia amongst others. The current lack of concerted and effective international trade regulation has fostered an environment in which commercial companies have enabled authoritarian regimes with pervasive surveillance capabilities.
The proliferation of these technologies allows for mass surveillance of entire countries, via hacking computers or phones, mapping, profiling and analysing social networks, installing malware allowing for surreptitious extraction of data, and mass internet monitoring and filtering through the tapping of under-sea fibre-optics cables that carry all communications traffic in and out of countries. These technologies enable regimes to crush dissent or criticism, chill free speech and destroy the fundamental rights that underpin democratic societies.
We work in diverse and challenging environments across the world defending international human rights. We have seen the impact and effect these tools have on citizens and civil society groups alike. Inaction will further embolden the surveillance trade and normalise state surveillance.
We urge governments to come together and take action.
"Repressive nation-states have long monitored telecommunications to keep tabs on political dissent. The Internet and online social networks, however, pose novel technical challenges to this practice, even as they open up new domains for surveillance. ... We describe attack campaigns we have observed in Bahrain, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates, investigating attackers, tools, and techniques."
Saudi Arabia's government should clarify whether it is infecting and monitoring mobile phones with surveillance malware, Human Rights Watch said today. Saudi officials should also say whether and how they intend to protect the rights of those targeted to privacy and free expression.