IACHR Warns about Spy Software Used in the Region

Fundación LED (Libertad de Expresión + Democracia) wishes to warn about the risks reported by the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in a recently published document.

In the report, which does not refer to any country in particular, the Agency expresses its concern over the disclosure of a great deal of information showing that several governments in the hemisphere have reportedly acquired and implemented electronic communications surveillance programs which could cause serious harm to the rights to privacy and freedom of thought and expression in the Region (IACHR – Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression – Press Release R80/15 – July 21, 2015 – OAS).

According to the 7-11&12-15 issues of the newspaper Perfil, and to the news portal Urgente24.com of July 13, 2015, information was recently disclosed about Hacking Team, a marketing company of Remote Control System software (also known as DaVinci or Galileo). Documents leaked include invoices, emails, tax information and other files.

This software, intended for governments and spy agencies, is designed to avoid computer and mobile phone encryption, allowing the gathering of data, messages, calls, mails, voice over IP, and even remotely activating microphones, cameras and keyboards to record images, audio or any other activity while the affected person remains unaware of it all.

Although Argentina is not listed as one of the Italian company´s clients, the information disclosed by the above media has leaked out that Argentine businesspersons might have liaised as intermediaries between AFI (the local Federal Intelligence Agency) and the provider for the acquisition and initial operation of the software.

Fundación LED (Libertad de Expresión + Democracia) expresses deep concern over the possible negative impacts that the use of this type of privacy-invading technologies, thwarting the free exercise of freedom of expression, might have on Argentina´s democratic society, especially when the provider of this type of software has been classified in the reports by Reporters Without Borders (RWB) or Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) as one of so many corporate enemies of the Internet that sell offensive intrusion capabilities damaging democracy.

Just as has been stated by the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in its report on Freedom of Expression and the Internet, “decisions to undertake surveillance activities that invade the privacy of individuals must be authorized by independent judicial authorities who must state why the measure is appropriate for the accomplishment of the objectives pursued in the specific case, whether it is sufficiently restricted so as not to infringe upon the right in question more than necessary, and whether it is proportionate in relation to the interests pursued.” If the investigations that are carried out entail an invasion of the privacy of individuals, having been previously authorized by law and ordered by a competent judge, such investigations shall nevertheless respect other due process guarantees. States must ensure that the judicial authority is specialized and competent to make decisions on the legality of the communications surveillance, the technologies used, and its impact on the sphere of rights that could be involved.

Fundación LED shall follow up closely on this case and shall request detailed information from the relevant agencies to guarantee compliance with standards adopted by international agencies and set forth in the local laws.