You say protection, I say surveillance: Undermining privacy rights in the Americas

A woman uses her mobile phone in Ciudad Barrios, El Salvador, 14 October 2018, OSCAR RIVERA/AFP via Getty Images

Pegasus: A violent — and still out of control — form of surveillance in the hands of governments

A year has passed since a study from Amnesty International revealed how governments around the world have been using Pegasus spyware to spy on human rights activists, political leaders, journalists and lawyers, but no concrete action — other than a bill recently proposed in the United States aiming to penalize US companies that purchase spyware developed abroad — has been taken to place a moratorium or regulate its use in any meaningful way, something that has been called for by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) through its Special Rapporteur.

Venezuela: Surveillance over an already limited communication environment

In late June 2022, a transparency report from Spanish provider Movistar — parent company of Movistar Venezuela — revealed that the company had intercepted over 20% of the telephone and internet lines of their Venezuelan clients. The report revealed that these interventions had taken place under orders and requests from the Venezuelan government. In total, Movistar Venezuela intercepted a total of 1,584,547 lines in 2021. According to local organisation Ve Sin Filtro, not only calls, but also text messages (SMS) were monitored to determine the location of a user through the use of their cellphone or by monitoring their traffic online.

You say protection, I say surveillance…

In recent years, technology has prevailed as the go-to solution for fighting crime in the region. Nevertheless, this tendency to technosolutionsism by governments in the region has been widely criticised, particularly for the lack of complex analysis needed to ensure that the use of these technologies is consistent with respect for human rights. One of the struggles at the moment comes as a result of sustained efforts by governments to install massive surveillance and face recognition systems, without public consultation or participation, using technology developed outside of the region, with little understanding of the context of use.

In brief

Violence continues in Haiti: Hundreds of people have fallen victim to a new wave of gang violence that has “deepened the humanitarian, political, and human rights crisis in the country”, according to Human Rights Watch. The organisation is calling on governments in the US and in Latin American countries to stop expelling people back to the country and urgently support efforts by local civil society groups.

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IFEX is a global network of organisations that defend and promote the right to freedom of expression and information. Email: info@ifex.org

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IFEX

IFEX

IFEX is a global network of organisations that defend and promote the right to freedom of expression and information. Email: info@ifex.org