export-controls 05 July 2019

Rapporteur calls for moratorium on spyware sales

Sales of surveillance software should be paused until a human rights-compliant safeguards regime is in place. So advises David Kaye, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression has advised, in a report published 25 June on ‘the surveillance industry and its interference with human rights.’

The report argues: ‘Export controls are an important element of the effort to reduce the risks caused by the private surveillance industry and the repressive use of its tools. However, their effectiveness is limited. First, the relevant international export control regime – the non-binding Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies, in which 42 States participate – is tailored to reduce threats to regional and international security.

‘While that is a laudable and necessary objective, the framework is ill-suited to addressing the threats that targeted surveillance pose to human rights; indeed, it lacks guidelines or enforcement measures that would directly address human rights violations caused by surveillance tools. Second, the focus on exports is an imperfect proxy for addressing the central problem: the use of such technologies to target lawful expression, dissent, reporting and other examples of the exercise of human rights.’

Amongst his recommendations are that:

‘States should impose an immediate moratorium on the export, sale, transfer, use or servicing of privately developed surveillance tools until a human rights-compliant safeguards regime is in place,’ and that,

‘Companies should…put in place robust safeguards to ensure that any use of their products or services is compliant with human rights standards. These safeguards include contractual clauses that prohibit the customization, targeting, servicing or other use that violates international human rights law, technical design features to flag, prevent or mitigate misuse, and human rights audits and verification processes.’


The report is at: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session41/Documents/A_HRC_41_35.docx