New Report: Current Export Controls for Surveillance Tools are Outdated and Ineffective

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WASHINGTON, DC — Authoritarian governments have abused surveillance technologies for political control, the suppression of the media and civil society, and other violations of fundamental human rights.  Today, New America’s Open Technology Institute – in collaboration with Privacy International in the United Kingdom, and Digitale Gesellschaft in Germany – released a new report that examines export controls as a policy solution to this problem.
Government regulation on the export of surveillance technology could help prevent such technology from being acquired by end users with dubious human rights records. The report provides an in-depth policy and technological analysis of export control regimes in Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and finds that existing export control regulations have become out-dated and have not kept up with new technology.
"It is clear that export controls need to be updated. The new controls on surveillance technology agreed on among 41 states through the Wassenaar Arrangement in December are an opportunity to do that,” said Tim Maurer, Research Fellow with New America's Open Technology Institute. “The U.S. government has a unique chance when it implements the changes to set a positive example for other countries."
Several governments have made efforts to impose export controls on surveillance technologies, but a coordinated multilateral approach will be necessary for export controls to be effective. That is why this report was developed as a joint project among three organizations in three different countries with a significant share of this market. “This report highlights not only existing efforts to ensure this thriving industry is made accountable, but also offers a blueprint forward,” said Edin Omanovic, Research Officer at Privacy International and co-author of the report.

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