UN Surveillance Expert Urges Moratorium on Sale of Spyware

The world should impose a moratorium on the sale and use of surveillance software until there are rules in place to stop governments using it to spy on opponents and critics, a UN expert has recommended.

David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression

David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (Photo: UN)

David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, submitted his recommendations in a report issued last week to the UN Human Rights Council, which opened a three-week session. Kaye said he had received detailed testimony about governments using spyware developed and supported by private companies, but the market was shrouded in secrecy.

“Surveillance of specific individuals – often journalists, activists, opposition figures, critics and others exercising their right to freedom of expression – has been shown to lead to arbitrary detention, sometimes to torture and possibly to extrajudicial killings,” he wrote. “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.” In his report, Kaye said government oversight of spyware “hardly exists,” and there was an “extraordinary risk of abuse.”

Kaye cited the examples of Pegasus spyware, produced by Israel’s NSO Group, which he said had been identified as being used to target individuals in 45 countries, and FinSpy, also known as FinFisher, produced by German-British Gamma Group.

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