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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.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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


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  1. icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 3 Mar 2015 @ 7:56am

    The Status Quo

    Keep in mind that the number of people satisfied with the status quo is diminishing. We have 50,000 SWAT raids a year. We have the most incarcerated population per capita in the world. We also have up to an 88% conviction rate thanks to police lying and judges who will automatically take their testimony. (Unless you actually believe that law enforcement is careful to only bring in suspects they're sure are guilty.)

    On the job force, 77% of the workforce is dissatisfied with the position that they're in. This is partially due to the reduced pay-scale, where even upper-middle managers are only getting a teacher's salary (what was regarded a pittance in the 70s). The ratio between executive salaries and the wages at the front end are unheard of, and according to the current administration, our economy is getting better. Maybe if you look at Wall Street.

    To be fair, I don't know a proper solution, and we are fools to imagine we know what the right way to affect change is. Those that thrive in the status quo are terrified of a violent uprising, which is why they respond to even single incidents with overwhelming numbers, but they also are becoming less tolerant and less receptive of peaceful expressions of general discontent. The OWS purge was telling, that we expect protests to burn out on their own and go away without the need for negotiation. When they overstayed their welcome they were met with water cannons, riot squads and rubber bullets. Oh, and a press blackout.

    So yeah. Peaceful protest was tried and rebuffed a while ago.

    But my job isn't to get creative. I, too, was raised under the myth that human beings listen to reason and act in their best interests.

    No, my role is to tell you that violence, however you might feel about it, is the path of least resistance. It is possible to get creative, and I hope to the Pillars of Creation that someone is considering novel ways to unite the discontented population in a common effort. (A good example of a positive tactics change is the shift in anti-war efforts from standing protests to anti-recruitment in schools where they debunk some of the lies and myths perpetuated by recruiting offices). But expecting that everyone will just sit tight while the ACLU and the EFF wind their way through the legal system (as much as I admire the work they do) is pure folly.

    Violent or not, we dissenters are branded as terrorists anyway. We just need to demonstrate that there are more kinds of terrorists than Muslim suicide bombers.

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