• Fri. Jun 2nd, 2023

Is a US Company Serving to Corporations Promote Surveillance Tech to Repressive Regimes? – Mom Jones


May 26, 2023

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Is the federal authorities serving to firms promote surveillance know-how to repressive governments? Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) needs to know, however a federal subagency has been cagey concerning the data. 

In a letter despatched on Saturday, Wyden requested the Worldwide Commerce Administration (ITA), a subagency of the Division of Commerce, for particulars about its function in serving to US corporations promote their surveillance know-how to different international locations. Within the letter, Wyden—a privacy-minded lawmaker who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance—famous that he had been asking for a solution on the matter since final summer season.

In August of 2022, the ITA confirmed to Wyden that it “supplies help” to firms promoting surveillance know-how. However when requested, the subagency, Wyden writes, “didn’t present particulars on these actions” or the particular assist ITA has provided due to “unspecified authorized obstacles to revealing extra [information].” In principle, this work falls inside ITA’s purview of selling US exports: ITA’s web site touts that it’ll assist firms compete in international markets on every thing from “Metal” to “Aerospace and Protection.” However that doesn’t account for the potential purchaser: repressive regimes seeking to crack down on civil liberties.

Wyden has good motive for suspicion. When the ITA revealed posts on its web site showcasing arenas which are ripe for surveillance and safety know-how gross sales, the international locations talked about embrace not solely apparent allies like the UK, however additionally others with a historical past of abusing surveillance applied sciences, together with Honduras, the Philippines, and India.

Amnesty Worldwide has warned of the doable harms of India’s rising urge for food for surveillance know-how, which is especially regarding in gentle of the elevated persecution of Muslims within the nation. In its market intelligence submit on India, the ITA didn’t point out this repression. As a substitute, in February, the ITA instructed US corporations that the “surveillance methods market in India is rising” and “supplies alternatives for U.S. exporters.” One other submit on “India’s surveillance and safety market” famous “big alternatives for U.S. firms,” and that “surveillance methods are in demand throughout all sectors.” 

Surveillance instruments have been utilized in Honduras to protect state energy and the drug commerce. An ITA submit on the nation in 2021 famous that the nation’s want to cut back murder and crime is a chance for safety know-how corporations. The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Dueterte, has for years used surveillance know-how, probably abusing human rights. Nonetheless, in 2020 ITA promoted the Filipino market as “a possibility in tasks that require high-end, superior, and complex know-how similar to airport safety screening options.” Posts from the ITA embrace notes on the backside encouraging US safety and surveillance firms to contact company officers to “study concerning the safety and know-how alternatives” within the case of Honduras, and for “additional data” relating to the sector within the case of the Philippines and India, offering emails for particular employees.

Wyden famous within the letter that on the March assembly the ITA talked about a forthcoming coverage that will govern how the subagency’s employees would “work together with surveillance know-how suppliers going ahead” however has not been offered specifics. 

The ITA didn’t reply to a request for remark.

The Biden administration has signaled that it has an curiosity in curbing human rights abuses abetted by know-how, supporting the 2021 U.S.-EU Commerce and Know-how Council Joint Assertion—which requires the “deployment of latest applied sciences in ways in which … respect common human rights,” and “upholding freedom of expression and privateness rights,” amongst different protections.

“Given the [Biden] Administration’s acknowledged curiosity in limiting the human rights abuses made doable by these applied sciences, ITA should be clear about its previous and present promotion of those applied sciences overseas,” Wyden wrote.