Tools to identify, single out, and track us everywhere we go are inherently incompatible with our human rights and civil liberties. Unfortunately, many Latin American governments are eagerly purchasing this technology and ramping up the implementation of mass biometric surveillance — even as the movement to ban technology for biometric surveillance gains traction worldwide. Meanwhile, the companies supplying the tech are flying under the radar, selling surveillance technology that is deployed across Latin America without sufficient transparency or public scrutiny. Our latest report, Surveillance Tech In Latin America: Made Abroad, Deployed At Home, exposes the companies behind these dangerous products and the government policies and practices that are undermining people's rights.
As we highlight in the report, most of the biometric surveillance tech deployed in Latin America is acquired directly or indirectly from companies in Asia (Israel, China, and Japan), Europe (U.K. and France), and the U.S. They include AnyVision, Hikvision, Dahua, Cellebrite, Huawei, ZTE, NEC, IDEMIA, and VERINT, among others. These companies have a duty to respect human rights, yet their tools are often implicated in human rights violations perpetrated against civil society globally — journalists, activists, human rights defenders, lawyers, and members of targeted and oppressed groups.
Latin America has a long history of persecuting dissidents and people in marginalized communities, and authorities continue to abuse public power. The COVID-19 pandemic has now given governments a new excuse to deploy dangerous surveillance tools in the name of public safety, even as they fail to protect human rights. The bottom line: the backroom deals pursued in countries like Argentina, Brazil, and Ecuador are exposing the public to unacceptable risk.
Our report, a research collaboration with our partners at Asociación por los Derechos Civiles (ADC), the Laboratório de Políticas Públicas e Internet (LAPIN), and LaLibre.net (Tecnologías Comunitarias), not only documents the agreements to procure dangerous technology, it also presents case studies to show how the technology is deployed. Finally, we offer recommendations for government, companies, and other stakeholders to increase transparency and prevent rights violations.