OECD complaint: Trovicor exporting surveillance technology to Bahrain

Long Read

On 1st February 2013, Privacy International, together with the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Bahrain Watch and Reporters without Borders, filed complaints with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) against Gamma International, a company that exports “FinFisher” (or “FinSpy”) intrusive surveillance software, and Trovicor GmbH, a German company (formerly a business unit of Siemens) which also sells internet monitoring and mass surveillance products.

The complaint against Trovicor asked the German National Contact Point (NCP), to ascertain whether the company breached the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises by exporting surveillance products to Bahrain, where the authorities use such products in human rights abuses, including the arrest, detention and torture of political opponents and dissidents.

Despite the UK National Contact Point accepting our complaint against Gamma, the German NCP rejected our complaint against Trovicor, stating that the involvement of Trovicor in Bahrain were not sufficiently substantiated, and that an "in-depth examination is only possible in relation to the general risk management of Trovicor". Privacy International appealed against the decision and reiterated why there is sufficient evidence to at least warrant further investigation of the complaint by the NCP. The NCP has however decided to stick to its earlier decision.

The process once again demonstrates the inherent difficulty in holding an industry to account that by its nature operates under a cloak of secrecy. While it is disappointing, we will continue to seek redress for the victims and to hold Trovicor accountable by all other means possible.