Privacy International accuses British government of giving UK companies "carte blanche" to sell dangerous surveillance tech to Iran

Press release
Creativity Software

Privacy International’s Director-General Simon Davies has today written to Prime Minister David Cameron and Creativity Software CEO Richard Lee following revelations that Kingston-based Creativity sold a location-tracking system to Iran.

Mr Davies expressed his disappointment that the Coalition has taken no steps whatsoever to stop the export from Britain of surveillance technology to repressive regimes in the Middle East and North Africa, where it is used as a tool of political control against political dissidents, human rights defenders and journalists. He flagged up a paragraph in the Conservative Manifesto 2010, in which Mr Cameron extolled the benefits of “new technologies” like Twitter, Facebook and proxy internet servers, and asked the Prime Minister to practice what he had once preached by preventing British companies from selling systems that stifle internet freedom and undermine the security of private communications. Mr Davies warned Mr Cameron:

“By failing to intervene thus far, your government has effectively given UK companies like Creativity Software carte blanche to continue selling equipment and software to brutal non-democratic regimes …”

In the letter to Richard Lee, Mr Davies posed seven questions to which he requested urgent responses. The questions included: whether Creativity is currently seeking to do further business in Iran, and if so, what they are intending to sell; whether Creativity’s engineers or technicians have visited Iran; and whether the company has sold to any other Middle Eastern or North African countries such as Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, and Bahrain. He stressed that Creativity’s answers were of crucial importance to Iranian citizens looking for ways to fight for democracy while staying under their autocratic government’s radar:

“Those who are courageously working to bring democracy and respect for human rights to countries where there is currently a conspicuous absence of those principles need to know what they are up against in order to avoid detention, torture and execution.”

Eric King, Human Rights and Technology Adviser at Privacy International, said:

“For the Coalition government to have done nothing about this unethical trade as yet is laxness bordering on negligence. Now that the international trade in surveillance technology is the subject of worldwide scrutiny, they must take immediate action in order for the UK to maintain – and deserve – our reputation as global leaders in human rights.”

Privacy International awaits responses from both the Prime Minister and Richard Lee.