Submission to Special Rapporteur David Kaye

Over at Citizen Lab, we recently made a submission to Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. From Citizen Lab’s website:

Citizen Lab has penned a submission to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Mr. David Kaye, in preparation for his report to the General Assembly in October 2019. The submission reviews Citizen Lab research on the use of private surveillance technology against human rights actors, describes some of the common practices of concern among private companies in the surveillance industry, and proposes a set of recommendations for the path forward.

In addition to reviewing Citizen Lab research into the abusive deployment of technology manufactured by NSO Group Technologies Ltd. (a Q Cyber Technologies company), Cyberbit Ltd. (a subsidiary of Elbit Systems Ltd.), FinFisher GmbH (formerly part of Gamma Group), and Hacking Team S.r.l., the submission also seeks to highlight four important trends in the spyware industry, which provide a starting point for any discussion into future industry reform:

Private companies in the spyware industry sell their technology to authoritarian and repressive governments with poor human rights records. Existing regulatory and legislative regimes (such as export controls) do not appear to have been effective against such transfers.

Private companies in the spyware industry justify the sale of their technology to any government—regardless of that government’s human rights record—by arguing that they sell exclusively to sovereign States for the sole purpose of clients engaging in lawful activities and that such sales are done in compliance with all applicable laws.  

Private companies in the spyware industry operate in a non-transparent environment, creating enormous obstacles to evaluating and assessing the use of human rights due diligence processes within the industry or other mechanisms for mitigating human rights impacts.

In addition to the lack of transparency, private companies in the spyware industry operate in violation of a number of other fundamental human rights principles, such as the right to privacy in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and rights and norms articulated in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UN Guiding Principles).

The full submission can be found here