EU criticized over surveillance assistance in countries where privacy is at risk

Privacy International warns European Union money possible non-member countries to spy on their citizens

Law groups on Wednesday said European Union aid had been paid for surveillance equipment and training in countries with inadequate precautions against excessive state news, and called for an end to the ‘unacceptable’ practice.

From training Algerian police in social media monitoring to equipping Niger with telephone tracking devices, the EU has helped many countries increase their surveillance capabilities over the past few years, according to a report by London Privacy International (PI).

Nevertheless, the bloc has no effective control measures to ensure that their aid is not used to violate privacy and other rights in recipient countries, a dozen NGOs said in a letter to the European Commission, urging them to address the issue. speak.

“European governments … must ensure that they do not offer the instruments of repression to governments around the world,” the 12 European and African civil society groups wrote.

Niger allocated 11.5 million euros ($ 13 million) to EU funds two years ago to buy surveillance drones, cameras and software to strengthen migration control, according to the PI report, which is based on EU documents submitted by the group was acquired.

The money also covered the purchase of an IMSI catcher, a tool that enables secret cell phone detection, which critics say is too intrusive.

“(Niger) has no laws regulating the use of this type of invasive equipment,” the NGOs wrote, saying that the authorities have little reluctance to use the equipment for purposes other than border surveillance.

It was not clear whether Niger had acquired all the equipment, which according to EU documents was to help the country in the fight against human trafficking and illegal migration.

Niger’s presidential office and the European Commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


PI’s report states that EU agencies have also trained authorities across the Balkans, the Middle East and North Africa in ‘controversial techniques for telephone and internet surveillance’.

The courses offered over the past few years have taught Algerian officials to use fake accounts to gather information on social media and instructed Moroccan agents to use software to extract cellphone data, the report said.

Other initiatives that are of concern include the financing of an eavesdropping system in Bosnia and a biometric identification system in Côte d’Ivoire that will accelerate the repatriation of migrants from Europe, he added.

“Instead of helping people who are threatened daily by irresponsible oversight agencies, including activists, journalists and people just looking for a better life, this ‘help’ can do the opposite,” said Edin Omanovic, director of PI.

The 12 NGOs called on the EU to conduct adequate risk assessment and due diligence processes before supporting supervision, and to set up a fund to promote privacy and data protection on board.

“The EU must be a promoter of rights, not an enabling government to undermine it,” reads the letter, signed by the African Exchange of Expression Exchange, an umbrella group and Athens-based Human Rights. 360.


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