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Nigeria, Ghana, Morocco, Malawi and Zambia Collectively Spend Over $1 billion a Year on Digital Surveillance Technologies

They are using mobile phone spyware, internet interception devices, social media monitoring and biometric identity systems. Artificial intelligence for facial recognition and car number plate recognition is another digital surveillance technology in their growing toolkit. Researchers found that states were using surveillance technology contracts to spy on opposition politicians, journalists and peaceful activists. They were singling them out for harassment, arrest and even torture. This is in violation of countries’ constitutions, international human rights law and domestic laws. All the five countries studied have signed international conventions on the right to privacy and have incorporated privacy rights into domestic constitutions and national laws. Our findings give cause for concern about the chilling effect of mass surveillance on citizens’ freedom of speech, stifling debate, closing civic space, and damaging democracy. The report documents the use of surveillance to monitor, arrest and threaten journalists and peaceful activists who criticise government policies or ministers.

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