In a recent Guardian piece, I covered some promising human rights initiatives helped along by tech sector companies, both large and small. This subject is a thorny one, for many good reasons. Activists are very suspicious tech giants and this suspicion tends to get transposed on the sector as a whole. At the same time, there are a lot of apps, hacks and strategic uses of social networks that are helping activists worldwide.
Since I did not have enough time to download all the examples I found in the course of my research, here is a quick dump of references, classified as Tech sector = good or Tech sector = bad. For you to judge!
Tech sector = Bad
- Google, Yahoo and Microsoft in 2006… took steps to censor Chinese search results, and Chinese reporter Shi Tao was arrested and convicted of disclosing state secrets after Yahoo released details of a private email to the government… this drew exposure and condemnation from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders
- Amesys, a division of Bull SA, was outed in 2011 as a supplier of surveillance systems to Gadhafi’s Libya, a regime that tightly tracked its opposition before it toppled.
- In 2013, Canada’s Citizen Lab released a report detailing how Anglo-German company FinFisher implanted domestic spying software in 25 countries, including governments in Ethiopia, Vietnam, Bahrain and Qatar.
- Edward Snowden leaks: A host of documents revealed that the US National Security Agency – via Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Microsoft – had intercepted the communications of both US citizens and foreign nationals.
- Internet/Cable providers like Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner and AT+T trying to restrict internet speeds for profit (Battle for Net Neutrality)
Many more, I am sure… Care to suggest some?
Tech sector = Good
- The Google Ideas program – including Project Shield
- Movements.org, run by Advancing Human Rights and supported by Google
- Google supported projects like: Uproxy, a browser extension that helps users block attempts to spy on their web use, and The Guardian Project which creates apps that secure mobile devices against surveillance.
- SaferVPN and their Unblock the Web campaign, which aims to provide dissidents in closed societies with at least 1m hours of free, uncensored internet use.
- Silent Circle – a company that offers secure mobile voice and text communications helps the Tibetan government in exile evade Chinese surveillance
- Human Rights Foundation and its work with Wickr and Lantern