Tag Archives: Human Rights

Innovation Is the Only Way Forward

We at The Future 500 believe absolutely in the idea that innovation, constant innovation, is a key element to the 21st Century. Those who embrace the chaos of innovation and the the order of disorder will succeed, some beyond their wildest dreams. Those who do not will be left behind. This goes for countries, companies, and individuals. Create and think, or don’t. But the second option is not going to be a pleasant one.

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Cyber War: Israeli Military Sites Under Mass Hack Attack

War is in cyberspace as much as it is in real space. Since mid-last week Israeli sites have been probed over 44 million times. Typically Israel is subject to a few hundred attempts per day.

In air conditioned bunkers filled with servers hackers chase each other back and forth through code and over social media.

The attached article reports that the Israeli Army has a presence in all sorts of social media, and Hamas is particularly effective in Twitter. Try using the hashtags #Hamas and #Gaza to see what is happening in real time. It’s pretty amazing. But I wouldn’t go any deeper than that.

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Google sets sights on slavery battle

Google has taken a strong stance against modern-day slavery as part of the company’s wide-ranging CSR efforts. The Internet giant recently donated $11.5 million in grants across ten organizations to help fight against “an existence that is almost unfathomable in its degradation and inhumanity” that “millions of human beings are subjected to” daily.

From debt bondage and forced labor to sexual exploitation and organ removal, activists, analysts and policymakers estimate between 10 million and 30 million people worldwide are directly impacted by human trafficking and related crimes. The broader associated costs to development and human rights as much as triple the numbers affected by the scourge.

According to Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General, “these are among the manifestations of slavery today. All are crimes and egregious violations of human rights.”

“To eradicate contemporary forms of slavery, we need new strategies and measures that can unite all actors. While Governments bear the primary responsibility, the private sector has an integral role to play,” Ban said recently.

Ban Ki-moon has appealed to governments, NGOs, the private business sector and others “to demonstrate their commitment” by making contributions to the UN Voluntary Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. UN.Gift—a multi-agency UN effort to combat human trafficking—and the corporate sustainability effort, the UN Global Compact, have made combatting modern forms of slavery a focus of their efforts.

Ban has characterized the battle as a key part of the UN’s “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework on business and human rights, saying: ”The corporate responsibility to respect includes ensuring that their activities do not cause or contribute to contemporary forms of slavery in the workplace, and taking steps to stop it from happening in supply chains and elsewhere.”

Google announced the $11.5 million grant on its website as part of a total of $40 million it gave in charitable donations last holiday season.

While human trafficking and slavery are one of the most clear-cut human rights issues from a legal standpoint they are also one of the most difficult to combat. The trade in flesh operates almost exclusively behind a carefully crafted veil of secrecy on the black market despite law enforcement, NGO and government efforts. By engaging with a variety of stakeholders working on the issue and promoting efforts to address the causes that contribute to the trade, Google has adopted a leadership position on a challenge common to all multinationals.

Washington-based human rights agency International Justice Mission (IJM) is one of the ten recipients to receive grant funding from Google. President and CEO of IJM, Gary Haugen said Google’s move was a “game-changing investment.” IJM “works to rescue victims of slavery and sexual exploitation in about a dozen countries.”

“This is the largest corporate step up to the challenge that is beginning to apply direct resources to the fight against slavery,” Haugen said.

It’s estimated that 12,000 people will be freed from slavery with Google’s support, and the grant recipients claim that millions more could be prevented from being victimized.

Jacquelline Fuller, Google’s director of charitable giving, said that “the company chose to spotlight the issue of slavery because the topic of freedom—’the most basic of human rights,’ as she puts it—resonated with company employees around the world.”

“Many people are surprised to learn there are more people trapped in slavery today than any time in history,” Fuller said. “The good news is that there are solutions. Google is supporting organizations that have a proven track record and a plan to make a difference at scale.”

IJM in India leads two coalitions that received $8 million, the majority of the $11.5 million donation, with “about half going toward direct intervention and government-led rescue operations, and half toward advocacy and awareness projects.” The Polaris Project, which operates a hotline called the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, and Slavery Footprint, which is an “interactive website and mobile app that estimates how much of a user’s lifestyle relies on forced labor,” and IJM will receive $1.8 million. Both projects are part of the US Anti-Trafficking Initiative.

Most of IJM’s funding is from private donations, and in 2010, less than 1 percent “of its funding came from major corporations or corporate foundations.”

“It gives us a sense of what’s possible,” said Haugen. “We can actually change the whole balance of resources between those who are the criminals, hurting human beings and those who are on the side of those who need freedom today.”

EU moves to restrict Syria surveillance technology sales

The European Union (EU) has cracked down on the sale of surveillance technology to Syria that would enable the Syrian government to intercept text messages and peruse e-mail content of any of its citizens. Syria has been in the grips of severe crisis since mid-2011 after President Bashar al-Assad launched a bloody crackdown in response to pro-reform protests, and the EU fears Syrian authorities could use technology transfers to intensify abuse or to provide evidence for prosecutions.

In the EU regulation No. 36/2012, dated 18 January 2012, the ban on surveillance technology covers the “sale, maintenance and updates of systems for ‘deep-packet inspection’ of e-mail contents, remote infection of computers, speaker recognition, ‘tactical’ interception of text messages,” and many more technologies.

The regulation is meant to stop human rights violations “during a crackdown that’s killed more than 5,000 people.”

The EU regulation states: “In view of the continued brutal repression and violation of human rights by the Government of Syria, Council Decision 2011/782/CFSP provides for additional measures, namely a prohibition on the export of tele­communications monitoring equipment for use by the Syrian regime, a prohibition on the participation in certain infrastructure projects and investment in such projects, and additional restrictions on the transfers of funds and the provision of financial services.”

In Chapter II of the EU regulation, Article 4 for export and import restrictions, paragraph 3, prohibitions include the “equipment, technology or software which may be used for the monitoring or interception of internet or telephone communications.”

It was reported in early November by Bloomberg News that Italian company Area SpA built a “surveillance system that would have given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime the power to intercept, scan and catalog virtually every e-mail” that traversed cyberspace in Syria. After the report aired, Area SpA exited the deal and said that the system, which was slated to include components originating from German, French and American companies, would not be completed.

Member states will have “authority to permit exceptions to export” equipment, but if it would be used by the “Syrian government for monitoring or intercepting communications,” they would be banned from doing so. The regulation states that member states have to inform the EU of exceptions within four weeks of granting them.

Some companies have already encountered stakeholder resistance to their business dealings with Syria.

According to online activist group Telecomix, Blue Coat Systems, Inc. (BCSI), a US company, filtered websites inside Syria in early 2011. In December 2011, BCSI stated on its website that it reviewed its data and agreed that the potential for some of its’ appliances could be in Syria, thereby prompting the company to perform an internal review of shipments to see if they were illegally diverted to the country. BCSI provided the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) with the information for review. BIS announced that the appliances were “transshipped” and “have been the subject of recent press reporting related to their potential use by the Syrian government to block pro-democracy websites and identify pro-democracy activists as part of Syria’s brutal crackdown.”

“Blue Coat is lying to everyone about Syria,” said Jacob Applebaum, a Tor researcher. “They know exactly where serial numbers are being used because of a phone home process.” The process doesn’t allow Blue Coat devices to be in use without the company’s knowledge.

Blue Coat has stated that it will continue is “cooperation with appropriate government agencies to develop evidence on the unlawful diversion of any” of its products.

Area SpA defines itself as the leading Italian provider of “technology solutions to support Law Enforcement Agencies in interception activities.” The Italian firm reportedly has an agreement with the Syrian government to help the Syrians track and analyze data on mobile phones, traditional landline telephones and the Internet as well as providing training for government agents. Concerns that the company’s activities may be contributing to human rights abuses have yet to result in any serious legal questioning. Area SpA uses equipment from Germany’s Utimaco Safeware AG and France’s Qosmos SA, as well as NetApp, Inc., a US company.

This is not the first time sales of technology to repressive governments have drawn the ire of human rights stakeholders. When post-election protests erupted in Iran during the summer of 2009 and authorities were able to monitor calls and text messages, and again in 2011 when Bahraini authorities reportedly used information gleaned via technology purchased from Western companies to coerce confessions from pro-reform demonstrators, human rights stakeholders cried foul.

The issue, according to Rebecca McKinnon, is one of “amoral technology being used for immoral purposes has been exacerbated in the Internet age. As long as engineers and companies claim to have no responsibility for the political context in which their inventions and products are used, the problem is going to grow worse.”