“Various parts of the UN human rights system, including my office, have repeatedly raised serious concerns about the dangers of authorities using surveillance tools from a variety of sources that are supposed to enhance public safety in order to hack people’s phones and computers,” the Commissioner said. High Michelle Bachelet in a statement.
According to reports, allegations of a Pegasus data leak that surfaced through a range of media organizations over the weekend point to widespread and ongoing abuse of the software, which the manufacturers insist is only intended for use against criminals and terrorists.
The Pegasus malware infects electronic devices, enabling gadget operators to obtain messages, photos, emails, record calls and even activate microphones, the consortium reports. The leak contains a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers said to belong to those identified as people of interest, by customers of the company behind Pegasus, including some governments.
Surveillance programs have been linked to the arrest, intimidation and even killing of journalists and human rights defenders, according to a senior UN official.
Surveillance reports also create fear and cause people to censor themselves.
“Journalists and human rights defenders play an indispensable role in our societies, and when they are silenced, we all suffer,” she said, reminding all states that surveillance measures can only be justified in precisely defined circumstances when necessary and in proportion to a legitimate objective. .
Given that Pegasus spyware, “in addition to those created by Candiru and others, enables extremely deep intrusions into people’s devices, leading to insights into all aspects of their lives,” the UN human rights chief asserted, “its use cannot be justified.” except in the context of investigations into serious crimes and serious security threats.”
If recent allegations about the use of Pegasus are partially true, it asserts that “the red line has been repeatedly crossed with complete impunity.”
She said companies that develop and distribute surveillance technologies are responsible for avoiding human rights abuses, and must take immediate steps to mitigate and remedy the harm their products cause, or contribute to, and implement “human rights due diligence” to ensure that they no longer play a role in “such catastrophic consequences.” “Now or in the future.
She added that states also have a duty to protect individuals from violations of privacy rights by companies.
A key step in this direction is for states to require by law that companies fulfill their human rights responsibilities by becoming more transparent in their design and use of products and by establishing effective accountability mechanisms.
The key to better organization
The reports also emphasize “the urgent need to better regulate the sale, transfer and use of surveillance technologies and to ensure strict oversight and licensing.”
Governments must not immediately stop using surveillance technologies in ways that violate human rights, but also “take concrete action” to protect against such breaches of privacy by “regulating the distribution, use and export of surveillance technology created by others,” the High Commissioner said.
Without human rights-compliant regulatory frameworks, Ms Bachelet asserted that there are “too many risks” that the tools can be used to intimidate critics and silence dissent.