“Lawful intercept” surveillance products are part of a secretive industry by nature. Suppliers of spy software and mass surveillance devices serve competitive law enforcement markets that can track unsuspecting citizens and listen in on phone calls. A report from The Associated Press shows spy products proliferating in countries that violate basic human rights, kicking off concerns about regulations.
Confidential documents obtained by The Associated Press allowed them to examine companies such as Verint Systems, an Israeli-American intelligence technology company, in previously impossible detail. Advocacy group Privacy International reported that Verint and competitor Nice Systems have sold mass surveillance products to law enforcement in countries such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, which allow police to spy on people who may be distributing sensitive information.
“The authorities’ main weapon is people’s fear,” said Tulkin Karayev, an Uzbek civil rights activist in exile in Sweden. “Freedom of speech, freedom of expression — all this is banned.”
When approached by the AP, Dalia Rosen of Nice Systems parent company Elbit Systems said, “We follow the leading standards of corporate governance and focus on ethical behavior in our business dealings.”
The spyware industry rises and falls on the rise and fall of governments. The United Nations and human rights groups claim that surveillance tools made in Israel were used against dissidents in South Sudan. An AP reporter spotted Verint employees on a flight to South Sudan, but the U.N. has not released the name of the supplier.
Commercial mass surveillance products are regulated under the Wassenaar Arrangement, a non-binding international arms-export-control regime which has been ratified in the European Union and not in the United States.
Filed Under: Industry regulations