Blacklisting The Merchants Of Spyware – OpEd – Eurasia Review


In a modest effort to disrupt the global spyware market, the United States announced last week that four entities had been added to its blacklist.  On November 3, the US Department of Commerce revealed that it would be adding Israel-based companies NSO Group and Candiru to its entity list “based on evidence that these entities developed and supplied spyware to foreign governments that used these tools to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics, and embassy workers.” 

Russian company Positive Technologies and the Singapore-based Computer Security Initiative Consultancy also made the list “based on a determination that they traffic in cyber tools used to gain unauthorized access to information systems, threatening the privacy and security of individuals and organizations worldwide.”

The move had a measure of approval in Congress. “The entity listing signals that the US government is ready to take strong action to stop US exports and investors from engaging with such companies,” came the approving remarks in a joint statement from Democrat House Representatives Tom Malinowski, Anna Eshoo and Joaquin Castro.

This offers mild comfort to students of the private surveillance industry, who have shown it to be governed by traditional capitalist incentive rather than firm political ideology.  Steven Feldstein of the Carnegie Endowment’s Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program observes how such entities have actually thrived in liberal democratic states.  “Relevant companies, such as Cellebrite, FinFisher, Blue Coat, Hacking Team, Cyberpoint, L3 Technologies, Verint, and NSO group, are headquartered in the most democratic countries in the world, including the United States, Italy, France, Germany, and Israel.”

The relationship between Digital China and Austin-based Oracle shows how talk about democracy and such ideals are fairly meaningless in such transactions.  Digital China is credited with aiding the PRC develop a surveillance state; software and data analytics company Oracle, despite pledging to “uphold and respect human rights for all people” was still happy to count Digital China a global “partner…

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