Surveillance technologyCompanies urged to limit sale of surveillance tech to repressive regimes

Published 13 December 2011

The European Commission is urging private companies to limit the sale of surveillance technology to foreign countries that “repress” their people

The European Commission is urgingprivate companies to limit the sale of surveillance technology to foreign countries that “repress” their people.

Following the Wikileaks “Spyfiles” release, which revealed the various technologies that Western companies were actively selling to repressive regimes, Neelie Kroes, the European Commission’s digital agenda commissioner, encouraged firms to avoid “selling despots the tools of their repression,” which she said was at the very least “bad PR.”

Every actor, public and private, must take up their responsibilities,” Kroes said. “Companies should be transparent about the technology they are selling in certain countries.”

If technology is used by certain repressive governments to identify innocent citizens and put their life or freedom in danger, we ought to know,” she added.

Kroes went on to say that the European Commission might even go so far as to impose legal measures like sanctions to avoid letting surveillance technology fall into the wrong hands.

Before official sanctions are imposed, however, Kroes hopes that the surveillance technology industry will create their own internal regulations like the Global Network Initiative. Under the initiative, technology firms like Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo work together to establish ways the industry can promote freedom of expression and privacy.

The industry should come up with concrete solutions,” Kroes said. “I don’t want to be prescriptive at this stage. But I do want to see some kind of action. For our part, we are ready to support that process with expertise and operational support.”