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 @ 7:31pm

    "So let's not."

    Once again, while editing my title text, my browser spontaneously submitted upon habitually tapping the ENTER key. Maybe that shouldn't be the default result for ENTER while in the title field.

    I think you are depending to much on the notion that the human populace are rational, thinking creatures, rather than instinct-driven emotional apes. It takes one person's choice of violence to make an event a violent one. It takes everyone's choice to not be violent. Mind you, in Ferguson, those who chose to invoke violence were not the protestors but the alleged keepers of peace. The same thing happened to OWS. It takes a lot for one person to not panic while under fire of tear gas and rubber bullets. So with a crowd of protesters, it's near impossible.

    You cannot rely on the population to be well behaved. Nor can you rely on them to patiently wait for your legal action to have an effect. You can't rely on them to be rational. Or pacifistic Or informed at the polls. Or tolerant of people with strange features or beliefs.

    Consider that when you are planning your peaceful effort for change.

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