Bahrain at Forefront of Countries Using Spyware Programs, Mainly Cellebrite and Pegasus
2022-01-30 - 8:09 p
Bahrain Mirror: The Code Story website published an article on its website on the authorities' misuse of technology and stated that Bahrain appears to be at the forefront.
Data provided to Coda Story showed Geolitica, the American predictive policing company, used their predictive analytics to show where past protests in Bahrain took place as a proof of concept. It marks a potential pivot to preemptive surveillance of protests.
"It shouldn't be surprising that Bahrain appears to be at the forefront of considering how predicting policing can target protests. In 2012, authorities hired one of the masterminds of predictive policing in America, John Timoney, to reform the country's security forces," the website confirmed.
Bahrain is no stranger to surveillance of protesters, especially after uprisings in 2011 during the Arab Spring. Authorities have relied on tech like phone cracking tools to imprison people after demonstrations.
"The government would use any tool that allows it to monitor and track people closely, that allows them to basically detain and prosecute individuals before you find them on the streets protesting against you," said Marwa Fatafta, the MENA policy manager at Access Now. "It's not surprising that if this is the latest technology available and they do have the means to afford it, from a government's perspective, why not?"
"One can imagine in the context of Bahrain - I should emphasize that having a fair trial, due process and rule of law checks and balances, none of that exists - it would become like a rubber stamp, really, for whatever the government wants to do. It accelerates and automates discrimination, persecution and targeting of certain communities," she added.
In Bahrain, "I think it would give the government the ability to control public spaces, police them at a much greater level than they did in the past," said Fatafta. "Having predictive policing systems allows them to have a bigger police presence, which probably means more violent crackdown on these protests."
"It could mean also the end of the rights of peaceful assembly and association as we know it, especially for protesters and activists."
Bahrain's crackdown on dissent has long been supported by foreign companies. Authorities imported over $544,000 of surveillance tech from the UK between 2015 and 2017. Spyware from the German company FinFisher was installed on 77 computers belonging to human rights lawyers and opposition leaders between 2010 and 2012. During the height of the uprising in 2011, Bloomberg reported that Bahrain used spyware from Nokia Siemens to get access to activists' phones and use their texts against them during interrogations.
Bahrain also has a host of Israeli surveillance tech, like Cellebrite, which allows authorities to brute force their way into activists' cell phones. At least nine activists were targeted with Pegasus spyware. Bahraini activist Ibtisam Al-Saegh was among the targeted.