Surveillance Software Company Gamma Found To Have Violated Human Rights; Receives Unprecedented Slap On The Wrist

from the critical-decisions dept

As Techdirt has reported on the increasingly active world of commercial spyware, one name in particular has cropped up several times: Gamma, with its FinFisher suite of spyware products. In October last year, we reported that Privacy International had filed a criminal complaint against the company with the National Cyber Crime Unit of the UK's National Crime Agency. There's no update on that move, but it seems that a parallel action has had more success (pdf):
British-German surveillance company Gamma has been condemned by a human rights watchdog for its failure to adhere to human rights and due diligence standards, after a two year investigation into the company's sale of surveillance technology to Bahrain.
Here's what Privacy International says was happening in Bahrain:
The complaint alleged that Gamma sold its notorious FinFisher intrusion software product to Bahrain as early as 2009, after which time it was used by the Bahraini government to violate the human rights of three Bahraini nationals and human rights activists, Ala'a Shehabi, Husain Abdulla and Shehab Hashem.
You're probably wondering what the penalty is if you are found in breach of human rights in this way -- clearly a serious matter. Well, here it is:
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s UK National Contact Point (“"CP") concluded today that Gamma International should make changes to its business practices in order to ensure that in the future it respects the human rights of those affected by the surveillance technologies it sells.
Yes, you are told to do better next time. However, looking at things more positively, Privacy International points out:
Today's decision is the first time that the OECD has found a companies selling surveillance technologies to be in violation of human rights guidelines, and one of the most critical decisions ever issued by the OECD. In it, the NCP sets out in strong terms that Gamma has no human rights policies and due diligence processes that would protect against the abusive use of its products.
In other words, just as with the recent court victories against the UK government over its surveillance activities, what's important here is not so much the punishment -- or lack of it -- as the fact that for the first time a company selling invasive surveillance tools was condemned in this way. At the very least, it puts such companies on notice that they are being watched and will be hauled up before these kind of bodies for public shaming. Well, it's a start.

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Filed Under: bahrain, companies, finfisher, human rights, privacy, surveillance
Companies: gamma, privacy international

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  1. icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 2 Mar 2015 @ 9:29am

    Wow. Such controversy from a short phrase.

    History tells us that violence is often the recourse used, often because non-violent protest is either ineffective or unavailable.

    We do like to point out Ghandi's protest as exemplary of making non-violent revolution work, and as has been noted, even the Palestinians could probably pull something together if they could just get a few million people to cooperate and lie down at the checkpoints, and don't move even when the police start shooting people on the ground (and they will).

    Not an easy thing.

    It takes far fewer people to implement a sabotage campaign. Leaving the rest of the people to work, eat, live and come to terms in time with the notion that the people with their best interests are not the ones cutting their paycheck.

    But Gandhi also had culture on his side. The United States is disinclined to take crap lying down. We invaded Iraq because we're angry. We stooped to the low of torturing and endorsing torture not because it works, not because it served a state purpose, but because some powerful people were angry, and making some Muslims suffer made them feel better.

    Violence is not ridiculous. Violence doesn't have to solve anything. Violence is inevitable. People with nothing left to lose already engage in killing rampages. Eventually there will be so many with too little to live for as to overwhelm the responders. And it may not do any good. But it won't matter -- blood will soak the streets but especially the newsprint.

    If we're going to solve things non-violently, we're going to have to act soon instigate real change. So those of you dismissing violence need to recognize this is a descriptive prediction. A cautionary one. And if history serves, it is the end to all paths of low-resistance. Feel free to do everything possible to change this destiny, or (to paraphrase Bertrand Russel) it won't have anything to do about what's right, but what is left.

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