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23 Jul 2021

Amnesty International

Amnesty International briefing "Uncovering the Iceberg" examines the digital surveillance crisis wrought by states & the private sector

... [C]ivil society has long reflected that the pervasive lack of transparency around the use of targeted digital surveillance, and the role of the private sector in facilitating that surveillance, has impeded understanding of and accountability for the severe human rights repercussions of the trade...
Now, as a result of collaborative investigation that involves more than 80 journalists from 17 media organizations... Snowden-scale disclosures have revealed to the public just how states’ use of the targeted digital surveillance tools supplied by one of the industry’s most prominent participants is utterly out of control, destabilizing, and threatening to individuals’ human rights, including physical safety.

... In this briefing, Amnesty International’s goal is to contribute to the discussion by highlighting some of the key insights from the perspective of international law, particularly international human rights law, that come out of the reporting and technical analyses. These include: the improper breadth of targeting under international human rights law, which is also out of line with the company’s stated rationale of selling its products tohelp its clients combatcrime, including terrorism-related conduct; the clandestine nature of the tool that facilitates its illegal use and operation; the serious human rights violations that have resulted; the total impunity of states and companies in deploying this targeted digital surveillance tool; and the failure of states to fulfil their obligation to protect them from this unlawful hacking and surveillance.

Finally, Amnesty International puts forward recommendations on the way forward, given the demonstrated need for independent oversight of the targeted digital surveillance industry, accountability for human rights violations and abuses, and greater transparency... The revelations lead to one conclusion: This is an unaccountable industry, and an unaccountable sphere of state practice, that must not continue to operate in their current forms. Our human rights and the security of the digital ecosystem as a whole depend on it.