At this stage, we want to saturate the direction of our research. We will specifically delve into what technologies Amnesty have utilised and how effective they were.

Our initial research has taken us to the tip of the iceberg on who and what Amnesty are about. Since the organisation does so much for human rights in the broadest sense, its important to avoid getting lost in the details. Our project is based on the  design of an interactive technology that supports Amnesty. We want to know more about what tools and technologies Amnesty have already designed. As part of research, we’ve found an article on ‘Detkt’, the 2014 spyware detector for activist and governments; see our review below.

“New Tool for Spy Victims to Detect Government Surveillance”

– Article written by Amnesty Business & Human Rights department, 2014

In 2014, Amnesty created a new tool called Detekt which aimed to allow journalists and human rights defenders to scan their computers for known surveillance spyware. It was the first tool to be made available to the public that detects major known surveillance spyware, some of which is used by governments in computers.

“Governments are increasingly using dangerous and sophisticated technology that allows them to read activists and journalists’ private emails and remotely turn on their computer’s camera or microphone to secretly record their activities. They use the technology in a cowardly attempt to prevent abuses from being exposed,” said Marek Marczynski, Head of Military, Security and Police at Amnesty International.

“Detekt is a simple tool that will alert activists to such intrusions so they can take action. It represents a strike back against governments who are using information obtained through surveillance to arbitrarily detain, illegally arrest and even torture human rights defenders and journalists.”

The adoption and trade in communication surveillance technologies has grown exponentially in recent years.

The Coalition Against Unlawful Surveillance Exports, of which Amnesty International is a member, estimates the annual global trade in surveillance technologies to be worth US$5 billion, and growing.

Some surveillance technology is widely available on the internet; while other more sophisticated alternatives are developed by private companies based in developed countries and sold to state law enforcement and intelligence agencies in countries that persistently commit human rights violations.

FinFisher, a German firm that used to be part of UK-based Gamma International, developed the spyware FinSpy which can be used to monitor Skype conversations, extract files from hard drives, record microphone use and emails, and even take screenshots and photos using a device’s camera.

According to research carried out by Citizen Lab and information published by Wikileaks, Finfisher was used to spy on prominent human rights lawyers and activists in Bahrain.

Amnesty International is urging governments to establish strict trade controls requiring national authorities to assess the risk that the surveillance equipment would be used to violate human rights before authorizing the transfer.

“Detekt is a great tool which can help activists stay safe but ultimately, the only way to prevent these technologies from being used to violate or abuse human rights is to establish and enforce strict controls on their use and trade,” said Marek Marczynski.

Amnesty International will use its networks to help activists across the world learn about Detekt and scan their devices for signs of spyware. It will also engage in testing with its local partners and networks who are considered at high-risk of being targeted by such spyware.

Notes:

Amnesty’s ‘Detekt’ was designed as a tool to support their ‘user base’, who consist of activists and journalists who are trying to expose governmental crime. The software does not necessarily support Amnesty directly (i.e. Amnesty employees), although one could argue that support of their users is in turn supporting Amnesty on the whole.

We could look into developing something similar to Amnesty’s Detekt, although the application is software based and highly complex. This draws up technical constraints as well as restrictive access to particular media (for example, satellite images).

It would be beneficial to research Amnesty’s utilisation of interactive technology. What campaigns or projects have they illustrated using interactive technologies? Were they effective? Is there room for an interactive technology installation on the streets of Bristol?

We hypothesise that Amnesty’s secondary aim, following the fight for human rights, is to raise awareness among the masses about current campaigns and the right to knowledge concerning governments and those in control. We could design some form of interactive technology that does just the latter.

We will need to meet with someone from the inside, preferably an Amnesty employee from the design/tech team and the manager of the South West. By doing so, new insights into what we should be designing for (awareness or protection) will arise with a basic understanding of what we can rationally and realistically achieve.

Earlier on this afternoon, we bumped into a course friend. When we told him about Amnesty, he said he ‘automatically turns off when anything politics related is mentioned’. Adam might be a good example of who we could be designing: the general public whose experience of human rights or politics is overwhelming and emotional, provoking them to automatically switch off.

If we were designing for awareness, Adam would be one of our target users. The interactive part of the technology could be used to draw members of the public in, without using words and statistics that repel. Perhaps imagery or sound could replace words that lead to so many turning their heads in ignorance.

Questions we could ask Adam are: What is it about politics that automatically make you turn you off? Do you feel emotional or like a needle in a haystack when it comes to the government? What makes it so unappealing to you? Do you find it overwhelming due to the mass of political situations? Is there too much going on? Do you not care because it’s easier that way?

 

Other things to research:

  • Chaos Computer Club – Germany
  • Pirate Party – open transparent government

 


References:

Amnesty international (2017) in Wikipedia. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amnesty_International#Principles [Accessed 20 January 2017].
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