Behind the rise of the private surveillance industry in Central Asia
15 January 2015
The following op-ed appeared in openDemocracy, written by Edin Omanovic, Research Officer at Privacy International:
It's not surprising that some of the states in Central Asia spy on people. Authoritarianism across the world relies on the intrusion into, and lack thereof, of a private sphere. From the KGB to their modern incarnations, the autocracies in the region continue to rely on state surveillance and other entrenched means of political control to stay in power.
New technologies and communications means, heralded as great tools of progress, are being met the world over with censorship and surveillance. At best this minimises the utility of these technologies; at worst, it turns them into tools for unprecedented state spying and repression.
What may be somewhat surprising in Central Asia is the sophistication of some of the surveillance technologies that are being used, and the amount of foreign companies supplying them. An investigation into surveillance in Central Asia conducted by Privacy International–the findings of which were recently released–raise serious questions as to how democratic progress stands a chance at all in Central Asia in the face of such a comprehensive system of political control facilitated by state surveillance. It also exposes the complexities, dangers and unaccountable nature of a private surveillance industry, and the governments and companies that facilitate their activities.