WikiLeaks Releases Files on Legal Spying Industry

Surveillance CameraWikiLeaks on Thursday released the first 287 documents from a database covering what it calls the “mass surveillance industry.”

In an announcement, it said:

The WikiLeaks Spy Files reveal the details of which companies are making billions selling sophisticated tracking tools to government buyers, flouting export rules, and turning a blind eye to dictatorial regimes that abuse human rights.

Most of the documents, from a database containing “hundreds” of them, are dated 2006 to 2011. One of its partners in the project, The Washington Post, describes the estimated $5 billion industry in tracking, monitoring, and eavesdropping technology. It says:

This burgeoning trade has alarmed human-rights activists and privacy advocates, who call for greater regulation because the technology has ended up in the hands of repressive governments such as those of Syria, Iran, and China.

And describes technology offered at an October trade show in Bethesda, Md.:

On offer were products that allow users to track hundreds of cellphones at once, read emails by the tens of thousands, even get a computer to snap a picture of its owner and send the image to police—or anyone else who buys the software. One product uses phony updates for iTunes and other popular programs to take control of personal computers.

The Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks ago wrote a similar story gleaned from marketing materials for “lawful intercept” technology, apparently from the same show.

The Post describes a export regulatory loophole for companies whose technology can be used in multiple ways and the difficulty in regulating this fast-evolving industry.

WikiLeaks also was due to unveil Thursday a new system to better protect those submitting material, a launch previously delayed as it was “re-engineered from scratch.”

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