Ethiopia: the first "off-the-shelf" surveillance state


"They Know Everything We Do", a new, exhaustive report from Human Rights Watch, details the way the young state of modern Ethiopia has become a kind of pilot program for the abuse of "off-the-shelf" surveillance, availing itself of commercial products from the US, the UK, France, Italy and China in order to establish an abusive surveillance regime that violates human rights and suppresses legitimate political opposition under the guise of a anti-terrorism law that's so broadly interpreted as to be meaningless.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is representing a victim of Ethiopian state surveillance: Mr. Kidane had his computer hacked by Ethiopian spies while he was in the USA, and they planted spyware that gave them access to his Skype and Google traffic.

The 137 page report details the technologies the Ethiopian government has acquired from several countries and uses to facilitate surveillance of perceived political opponents inside the country and among the diaspora. The government’s surveillance practices violate the rights to freedom of expression, association, and access to information. The government’s monopoly over all mobile and Internet services through its sole, state-owned telecom operator, Ethio Telecom, facilitates abuse of surveillance powers.

"They Know Everything We Do"

Notable Replies

  1. This is where the USA is currently headed.
    Stop the NSA.

  2. It's vanishingly unlikely that Ethiopia is alone in this. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_intelligence_agencies
    Putting the genie back in the bottle is rarely an option.

    In the old, old game of attack and defense, you have to adapt or go under. Information technology and big data would, in an ideal world, be used only for good. Since wishing for an ideal world is historically a waste of time, it becomes a matter of making use of the available tools to effect a defense. It takes understanding and work, of course...

  3. Anybody else remember when The Free Market was the historically inevitable doom of the isolationist commie police states? And when strong crypto was going to protect privacy rather than lock bootloaders?

  4. thaum says:

    Still does. Use it.

  5. I do. Where possible.

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