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Briefing

9 Mar 2022

Navigating the surveillance technology ecosystem: A human rights due diligence guide for investors

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Cyber-surveillance (surveillance) technologies are fundamentally reshaping our societies. While certain technologies within the surveillance sector can serve legitimate law-enforcement and national security purposes with appropriate government oversight and accountability, many are being used to systematically violate a range of human rights. This includes reinforcing discrimination, promoting censorship of the media, violating individuals’ right to privacy, facilitating detention and forced labour, and enabling attacks against human rights defenders.

As shareholders in companies with activities or investments in the surveillance technology ecosystem, investors have a critical role to play in promoting human rights and helping to uphold the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). Investors also have a fiduciary duty to their clients, which has evolved to include environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria as key indicators of a company’s long-term value and performance. Human rights risks are material risks, accompanied by legal, reputational, and financial consequences for companies and their investors.

Grounded in the perspectives of digital rights advocates, HRDD modelling experts, and investors, this Guide seeks to assist investors of all sizes, types, and geographies to navigate the surveillance technology ecosystem and strengthen their human rights due diligence. The Guide includes:

  • An examination of how surveillance technologies create human rights risks for individuals and communities
  • An explanation of material risks for investors
  • Questions to identify severity of risk
  • A framework for investment decision making

Navigating the surveillance technology ecosystem: A human rights due diligence guide for investors

Full guide

At a glance: Human rights due diligence for surveillance technologies investor guide

Summary

Further reading

Technology & human rights: Big Issue

Technology offers powerful tools for society, but restrictions to digital freedom, and developments in artificial intelligence, automation and robotics, raise serious concerns about the impacts on human rights and the future of work.

Technology Company Dashboards

BHRRC created new company 'dashboard' pages for 40 technology companies around the world to provide workers, rights advocates, investors, and others easy-to-access information about company behaviour on human rights.

The Pegasus Project

In July 2021 the Pegasus project began publishing details from an investigation into data linked to the surveillance technology company NSO Group. It identified extensive abuse of NSO's hacking software by governments to target figures including human rights activists, journalists and lawyers.