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. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Mar 2015 @ 11:23am

    Re: Wow. Such controversy from a short phrase.

    Violence is not inevitable. Violence is a choice.

    History is full of both violent and peaceful resolutions. The only question is, which will you choose?

    And I don't think anyone's "dismissing" violence out of hand. They're just pointing out that it's a course of action that shouldn't be sought out until everything else has failed - as a violent resolution is sure to result in much suffering for everyone involved.

    Perhaps a day will come when there is truly no other option than to resort to violence as one's only means of self-defense. But that day is not today. The reality is that we have many, many other peaceful means to bring about change before that day arrives (if somehow that day is inevitably approaching).

    I agree with you that implementing peaceful change is "Not an easy thing." And it's a slow thing. And violent retribution offers infinitely more opportunities for emotional release than do endless FOIA requests, public education campaigns, and court verdict appeals. However, by using the slow, difficult, boring, peaceful means for change, far fewer innocent people will suffer and much less destruction will be brought unto this world.

    And I agree that "The United States is disinclined to take crap lying down." So let's not. But how about we exhaust the peaceful means first - before resorting to violence.

    And I agree that "If we're going to solve things non-violently, we're going to have to act soon to instigate real change." So if that's really how you feel, then why not help out the folks that are actually acting now:

    Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
    Privacy International
    Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
    American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

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