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Press Release

9 Mar 2022

Surveillance technology investors face significant risks if human rights are ignored

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Controversies surrounding NSO Group's Pegasus spyware and the inherent bias of facial recognition systems highlight the need for immediate and improved due diligence for these emerging technologies.

A new guide launched today on effective due diligence will help shareholders with investments in the surveillance technology ecosystem identify, assess, prevent and mitigate increasing human rights and other material risks. The intrusive and pervasive nature of these emerging technologies has led to invasions of privacy, violence, and discrimination, frequently against marginalised communities. However, for those investing in this rapidly developing industry there is still a long way to go to fully recognise the significant threats involved – and their critical role in preventing and mitigating them.

Investors have a responsibility to ensure their portfolio companies are respecting human rights and are not unnecessarily exposed to legal, reputational, and financial risks. Navigating the Surveillance Technology Ecosystem: A human rights due diligence guide for investors provides shareholders with a deeper understanding of the potential human rights issues going unnoticed in their portfolio companies’ value chains and a framework for making rights-respecting investment decisions. Based on consultations with digital rights advocates, due diligence modeling experts and investors, the Guide is ultimately designed to help investors advance corporate accountability throughout the surveillance technology ecosystem.

Christen Dobson, Tech & Human Rights Senior Programme Manager, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, said: “The surveillance technology industry impacts people’s fundamental rights in unprecedented ways. This Guide provides investors with the tools they need to implement appropriate steps to prevent human rights harm. We know from recent revelations concerning companies like NSO Group and Facebook (Meta) that surveillance technologies are being used to spy on human rights activists and journalists, reinforce discrimination, and facilitate arbitrary detention. This must stop.” 

Sam Jones, President, Heartland Initiative, said: “As the tide of authoritarianism rises and democracy ebbs worldwide, leading investors are confronted with the stark truth that threats to human rights are increasingly threats to the bottom line. There is perhaps no better example of this nexus between human rights saliency and financial materiality than the surveillance technology ecosystem. The Guide is designed to help investors navigate this complex network of states, companies, communities, and individuals, with an eye to ensuring that emerging technologies are used to strengthen human rights and democratic freedoms around the world.”

Spokespeople from Access Now and Heartland Initiative are available for further comment.

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Business & Human Rights Resource Centre is an international NGO that tracks the human rights impacts of companies across the globe.

Note to editors:

Media contact: Priyanka Mogul (London-based), Media Officer, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, +44 (0) 7880 956239, [email protected]