Published On: Mon, Jul 23rd, 2012

Technology Behind Dictatorships

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Nubia Nieto

In old times, dictatorships were mainly based on spies and secret services who could reveal the names of people, plotting the current regimen´s continued reign through rumours, printed newspapers, books, and people networks. Nowadays, these regimes are also based on the use of  technology, analysing the contents of computers, mobiles phones, tablets, history of websites, and digital communications, as well as hacking internet accounts, data bases of dissidents’ groups, political parties and civil organisations.

Privacy no longer belongs to only civil society. Quite the opposite, it belongs to Information Technology (IT) companies that trade with this knowledge with all governments worldwide. Spy files, surveillance international services, digital forensics, safe cities, mobile monitoring, webmail interception, intelligence monitoring and so on are the most common names that sell services to governments to control their population through technology.

The sales of inspection software became a big business for IT companies, especially in regions   controlled by corrupt politicians and un-democratic regimes. For example, data flowing over networks through messages can be easily monitored by the network operator and using special software can distinguish those messages that are related of political activity and those of normal social life.   In the same vein, smartphones can reveal in a very simple way geographical locations and movements of users.

Calls, SMS, emails, photos, videos, memos, voice messages, phone conversations, and browsing websites, chat room discussions; equally messages deleted or saved, facial recognition in public places by Video Surveillance Technology (CCTV) that can operate even in poor light conditions, can be also tracked by networks companies and special software.

On the other hand, intercepting calls and messages, and cutting off phone communications during public meetings are also part of the new package of media technology control. Certainty, this kind of technology can make our lives easy and pleasant, but they can also limit our civil liberties.

Iran, Noth-Korea and China, where telecommunications are monopolised by government companies and have spy software, these regions can track dissident movements in 20 seconds and plot locations at the same time.

New technologies allow connection to people around the world, breaks borders, and passes information simultaneously, however these technologies can also eliminate personal privacy and contribute to human rights infringements.

There is no regulation so far from West governments to their companies concerning the selling of spy technologies abroad and mainly to corrupt and dictators worldwide. According to “the Bureau of Investigative Journalism”, there are more than 160 companies, specialised in surveillance technology and which profits are estimated to five billion dollars a year worldwide.

Following the report of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, among the most well-known of these companies are Sophos, Creativity Software, Gamma Group, Telesoft Technologies, Cyber Security Products, Area, Cobham, Datong, Detica and Hidden Technology Systems International (HTSI).

In this context, spyware on devices are part of our new reality in a new virtual world, where threats are not only physical and materialistic, but also virtual ones. The governments from all political trends nowadays use information technologies as a rule of thumb for the good and for the bad of their people and their countries.  As well as, a tool to encourage democracy, and paradoxically also limiting civil rights. Spyware raises ethical and privacy concerns but the main problem is not the software as rather the uses of it.

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