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Europe’s exports of spy tech to authoritarian countries revealed

In order to prevent dictatorships from abusing European technology to crack down on political opposition, the EU started regulating the export of surveillance technology a few years ago. But that has far from stopped the exports to problematic countries, a cross-border investigation reveals.
Street protests in Bahrain, one of the countries in which European surveillance technology has been used against political activists.

Street protests in Bahrain, one of the countries in which European surveillance technology has been used against political activists.

Cem Genco

23. februar 2017

Human rights activists and organisations were celebrating when the EU introduced restrictions on the exports of surveillance technology by the end of 2014.

Finally, more than three years after revelations in the aftermath of the Arab Spring had shown how the European surveillance industry helped dictators in the Middle East crack down on protests, the European countries were taking action.

Due to »growing security concerns regarding the use of surveillance technology and cyber-tools that could be misused in violation of human rights or against the EU's security«, as the Commission wrote in a press release at the time, the export of cyber-surveillance technology to countries outside the Union would now require governmental approval.

But today, the celebrations have been replaced by disappointment. The new rules have not had the effect many had hoped.

A cross-border investigation conducted by a network of European media outlets reveals that the EU’s member states have permitted exports of cyber-surveillance technology at least 317 times during the past two years. In comparison, 14 applications were denied.

 

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