News Brief
Authoritarian Tech

UK Government Trade Fair Peddles Tech to Authoritarian Regimes

Last week, the British government held its annual “Security & Policing” fair, which promotes European surveillance technology to, among others, authoritarian regimes.

A new Vice News investigation shed fresh light on what goes on at the fair. One company, Gamma, allegedly helped the Bahraini government hack the computers of opposition activists. Gamma has used the British fair to sell some of its newer products, like mass phone and internet interception tools that could monitor an entire country simultaneously.

A British member of parliament, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who has written critically about the fair, has also been denied entry into the exhibit.

In 2018, the European Union passed restrictions on the export of tech that could be used to abuse human rights. However, some member states have been lobbying against such regulation, and Russell-Moyle claims that the UK government continues to authorize the sale of surveillance technology to repressive regimes.

European companies have long raised eyebrows by selling repressive technology to authoritarian regimes, especially in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

In recent years, however, China has become a larger player in arming authoritarians with technology. Late last month, Chinese companies were well-represented at a security exhibition in Rabat, Morocco, selling monitoring and surveillance products similar to those on display in Britain. In post-Mugabe Zimbabwe, Chinese companies play a major role in building a nascent surveillance state, as we recently reported.

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