Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has unveiled a comprehensive strategy to combat the misuse of commercial spyware, announcing a new visa restriction policy aimed at individuals associated with such activities. This policy underscores concerns regarding human rights violations, including arbitrary detentions and extrajudicial killings, linked to the misuse of surveillance technology. Additionally, the Biden Administration has issued an Executive Order prohibiting the use of mercenary surveillance tools, emphasizing a commitment to safeguarding global freedoms and national security interests.
In collaboration with 36 other governments forming the Freedom Online Coalition, the Biden administration has released guiding principles to prevent the misuse of surveillance technology and uphold human rights. The joint effort aims to address concerns related to the intimidation of political adversaries, suppression of dissent, and monitoring of journalists’ activities facilitated by the deployment of commercial spyware. Furthermore, the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has taken action by adding several European commercial spyware companies to its Entity List, citing their involvement in trafficking cyber exploits used for hacking activities worldwide.
The sanctions imposed by the Commerce Department also targeted companies from Israel, Russia, and Singapore involved in the development and sale of spyware or hacking tools utilized by state-sponsored hacking groups. This multi-faceted approach reflects the United States’ commitment to addressing the growing misuse of commercial spyware, promoting accountability for those involved, and defending fundamental human rights and freedoms globally. Secretary Blinken reiterated the nation’s stance, emphasizing the importance of standing against repression, ensuring accountability, and safeguarding the free flow of information in the face of increasing threats posed by surveillance technology misuse.
- Executive Order on Prohibition on Use by the United States Government of Commercial Spyware that Poses Risks to National Security