New database aims to track the global surveillance industry

From The Verge:

Privacy International, a London-based watchdog, has launched a new searchable database on hundreds of surveillance companies across the world, as part of an effort to track a murky industry. Created in collaboration with Transparency Toolkit, the Surveillance Industry Index (SII) includes information on more than 520 surveillance companies, as well as the technology they have exported to government agencies and telecommunications companies. Privacy International has also released a report that tracks the growth and development of the global surveillance industry since the 1970s.

The hope is that the SII will serve as an important tool for activists, journalists, and policymakers. Previous investigations conducted by Privacy International and other organizations have shed light on private surveillance companies and the powerful tools they sell to governments, but the industry remains largely shrouded in secrecy, with little oversight.

“one of the most important and polarizing issues of our time.”

“State surveillance is one of the most important and polarizing issues of our time, yet the secrecy around it means it’s a debate lacking reliable facts,” Edin Omanovic, a research officer at Privacy International, said in a statement. “Understanding the role of the surveillance industry, and how these technologies are traded and used across the world, is crucial to not only understanding this debate, but also fostering accountability and the development of comprehensive safeguards and effective policy.”

Information on the 528 companies in the SII was gathered from more than 1,500 brochures, as well as investigations and media reports. Entries on more than 600 technology exports were based on publicly available records and national export licensing data. In its report, however, Privacy International says that only Finland, the UK, and Switzerland have released useful statistics on export licensing, and that “[a]n extremely limited amount of government data has been released through freedom of information …

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