This week, Reporters Sans Frontiers published their 2013 Enemies of the Internet report. It begins:
My computer was arrested before I was.“ This perceptive comment was made by a Syrian activist who had been arrested and tortured by the Assad regime. Caught by means of online surveillance, Karim Taymour told a Bloomberg journalist that, during interrogation, he was shown a stack of hundreds of pages of printouts of his Skype chats and files downloaded remotely from his computer hard drive. His torturers clearly knew as much as if they had been with him in his room, or more precisely, in his computer.
RSF names Bahrain, China, Iran, Syria and Vietnam as ‘State Enemies of the Internet’, the most prolific violators of online privacy. But these countries do not design all their own surveillance technologies in-house. Appallingly, it is US and Western European companies, including British firms, who create the tools these murderous regimes use to spy on their own people. RSF names Amesys (France), Blue Coat (USA), Gamma International (UK, Germany), Hacking Team (Italy) and Trovicor (Germany) as corporate ‘Enemies of the Internet’.
These companies are emboldened in their dirty (but apparently, perfectly legal) work by the manoeverings by western Governments to seize greater control over the Internet. The British Data Communications Bill, commonly known as the Snoopers Charter, proposed to give security agencies to monitor all e-mail and data communications. For all those horrified at the abuse of online activists around the world, opposing the reintroduction of such legislation in our wn countries is a practical first step.