Dictatorships use German, British Internet spyware

This video says about itself:

Surveillance for Sale: ‘UK exports spyware to Bahrain to track activists’

19 May 2013

The Bahraini government is accused of using surveillance software from a UK-based company, to spy on a leading rights activist.

That’s according to documents filed at the High Court in London, by one of the founders of the rights group, Bahrain Watch. The programme works by infecting your computer, and then recording your Skype conversations and social media activity. It can also take screenshots without your knowledge, and access information on your hard disk. Alaa Shehabi, who filed the court documents – told RT that digital surveillance has been spreading in Bahrain, since former high ranking UK police officer John Yates became security advisor there.

From Deutsche Welle in Germany:

German spy software is popular abroad

Human rights groups and experts are criticizing a current lack of restriction on the export of German surveillance technology – they say that the products could end up being used by authoritarian regimes.

Bahrain during the mass protests of 2011: arrested opponents are confronted with sentences from private phone conversations or emails. Egypt, shortly after the 2011 revolution: opponents of the Mubarak regime storm the premises of the state security agency and find spying software. Syria, in the first year of uprisings against President Assad: during an interrogation, a political activist refuses to name his contacts, only to be shown more than 1,000 pages of transcripts from his private Skype conversations.

All these cases have two things in common. First, they took place in countries where mass protests against an oppressive regime were taking place. Secondly, they involved surveillance technology developed by German companies. Software experts and human rights organizations coming to these conclusions have been raising the alarm.

In addition, new data released by WikiLeaks points to increased travel by representatives of leading German surveillance technology companies to countries with authoritarian governments, raising concern about business dealings with political leaders.

No admissions of responsibility

Two of the companies in question – Atis and the German-British Gamma Group – did not respond to DW’s enquiry about the leaked documents. Another, Elaman, declined to comment on the basis of “confidentiality agreements pertaining to the product portfolio.”

Meanwhile, Utimaco provided DW with the same statement it issued in response to an earlier inquiry: Its software is not used for surveillance. However, software expert Detlef Borchers from Germany’s C’t computer magazine paints a different picture of the situation.

Borchers is skeptical about German surveillance software companies’ business dealings

According to Borchers, all of the companies named in the WikiLeaks report offer programs that can be used to monitor private telephone conversations. Such technology is also employed in Germany, he pointed out. …

For organizations like Reporters Without Borders (RWB), the new WikiLeaks revelations come as no surprise. In February 2013, RWB – together with other international human rights organizations – lodged a complaint with the OECD against Gamma Group and Munich-based Trovicor. They accused the companies of releasing surveillance technology that was used as an instrument of oppression in countries like Bahrain.

Both companies deny any responsibility in this matter. According to Christian Mihr, head of RWB in Germany, the Gamma Group claimed the programs had been stolen at a trade fair. RWB, for its part, is demanding that the export of surveillance technology be treated like that export of weapons, and be restricted accordingly. No such controls exist currently – only a company’s own code of conduct applies in situations of this kind.

German government’s dubious stance

Both Borchers and Mihr see the limitation of international surveillance technology trade as an issue that needs to be tackled at the political level. The German government’s stance is unclear – on one hand, Germany recently joined the Freedom Online Coalition initiative, which aims to support political activists in free Internet usage.

But on the other hand, according to its official strategy report, the ministry of economics sees the export of security technology as a future source of growth. Borchers estimates that the German companies involved currently generate 20 million euros ($26 million) in annual sales. Worldwide, the sector generates up to 4 billion euros ($5.2 billion) per year.

Mihr believes the government should introduce restrictions on surveillance technology exports

The German economics ministry is also the national point of contact for the OECD case against the two German companies. Apart from confirmation of receipt, it yet to react to the claim – even though the three-month processing deadline has long passed, according to Mihr. “They clearly have no interest in taking criticism from civil society seriously,” he concluded.

HARD on the heels of the revelations last June from the US whistleblower Edward Snowden that American and British spy agencies can access all the private information on the internet, comes new evidence that the spooks have done the same for smart phones: here.

8 thoughts on “Dictatorships use German, British Internet spyware

  1. Pingback: British government, media attack whistleblower Edward Snowden | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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  4. Pingback: British government, corporation help Bahrain dictatorship’s spying on its people | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Germany clamps down on exports of spy tech

    By Associated Press,

    BERLIN — Germany says it will restrict exports of surveillance technology to states that fail to respect their citizens’ human rights.

    Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel says the move is designed to prevent spy software ‘Made in Germany’ from being used for internal repression by autocratic regimes.



  6. Pingback: Bahraini arrested for tweeting, with help of British spyware | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  7. Pingback: German secret police spying on the Netherlands, Austria, France … | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  8. Pingback: Dutch government loses privacy referendum | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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