Access Now


How Israel automates human rights abuses and war crimes

With ceasefire talks at a stalemate and Israeli forces threatening a ground offensive in Rafah, Israel’s ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip delivers new horrors daily, many driven by technology. In a new post, Access Now’s Marwa Fatafta and Daniel Leufer explore the human rights implications of Israel’s reported use of AI-enhanced weapons in Gaza — from remote-controlled quadcopters and facial recognition tech to dehumanizing automated target-generation systems — a grim evolution of its existing digital surveillance infrastructure, and a demonstration of the need to ban rights-abusing AI technology, “in times of peace as well as war.” Read more via Access Now

Dig deeper

WATCH: “How AI tells Israel who to bomb”

Vox interviews multiple experts to understand how two AI systems that are reportedly used in Gaza, Lavender and The Gospel, operate. Watch via Vox

Amazon’s cloudy judgment

Urgent: Amazon must not build cloud infrastructure in Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, a social media post can lead to a death sentence. Authorities have a long, dark history of surveilling and intimidating human rights defenders, persecuting journalists, and exercising an iron grip over expression in digital spaces. Yet Amazon Web Services (AWS) still plans to build new cloud infrastructure there without showing they have conducted human rights-due diligence, waving away civil society concerns with inadequate responses. “By brazenly dismissing the human rights threats involved, Amazon is demonstrating — once again — that when profit is on the table, respect for human rights is relegated to just a slogan on their website,” says Access Now’s Marwa Fatafta. Read more via Access Now

READ: “Mapping tech companies’ cloud expansion in the Gulf”

AWS isn’t the only cloud services provider setting its sights on Saudi Arabia. Microsoft and Google plan to do the same thing. As digital rights organization SMEX details in a recent report, it’s a trend: the world’s largest tech companies are consistently choosing to ignore shameful human rights records as they seek new, lucrative revenue streams. Read more via SMEX

GDPR = Get data protection right!

READ: “GDPR enforcement done right”

The General Data Protection Regulation is over five years old now, but it still hasn’t fully delivered on its promise. As E.U. lawmakers consider new procedural rules to improve the situation, Access Now and EDRi have published a new position paper identifying the most pressing challenges and presenting our joint recommendations for increasing legal certainty and strengthening enforcement mechanisms. Read more via EDRi

Deepfakes vs. democracy

WATCH: “How deepfakes are infiltrating India’s election"

With India’s elections well underway, disinformation is spreading rapidly, with more than a little help from Big Tech. Speaking to Marketplace, Access Now’s Raman Jit Singh Chima shares insight on how deepfakes and misinformation are impacting Indian voters. The issue has serious implications and can enable identity theft and other crimes, warns Access Now’s Namrata Maheshwari in the South China Morning Post. “During sensitive periods such as elections, the need to identify such misuse and take steps to rectify and prevent it is even more urgent,” she says. Watch now via Marketplace

Fighting the spyware scourge

Unraveling a murky network of spyware exports to Indonesia

A joint investigation between Amnesty International, Haaretz, and other media partners has unraveled the tangled thread that ties Israeli spyware manufacturers to Indonesian state agencies, revealing “a murky ecosystem of surveillance vendors, brokers and resellers with complex ownership structures,” which “hide the nature of surveillance exports” and make it “challenging for regulatory mechanisms – where they exist – to be effectively enforced.” Indonesian human rights activists are responding to the revelations, urging the government to establish an oversight mechanism to rein in state agency surveillance. Read more via Amnesty International

They exposed an Israeli spyware firm. Now the company is badgering them in court

The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, a longtime Access Now partner, works tirelessly to expose spyware vendors and document attacks against civil society around the world. Now, Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group, maker of the infamous Pegasus spyware, is trying to undermine these efforts. In the U.S. court case brought by Meta against NSO for allegedly using the WhatsApp platform to deliver spyware, the company is demanding that the Citizen Lab hand over every single document about its Pegasus investigation — a demand the judge has rejected. Read more via The Intercept

When waiting is risky

READ: “U.S. digital metering system exposes migrants to harm”

A new report from Human Rights Watch documents how the U.S. government’s CBP One app, which asylum seekers at the U.S. border must use, puts vulnerable people in harm's way. Its automatic “metering” limits how many people can get an appointment each day, exposing those waiting their turn to exploitation by smugglers and cartels. Read now via Human Rights Watch

Digital rights win of the week

Court upholds New York’s broadband internet price cap for low-income families

In a victory for digital equity, a U.S. court has ruled in favor of maintaining New York state’s broadband price cap for low-income families, a decision that will help many people who could not otherwise afford internet access stay connected. Together with our partners, Access Now filed an amicus brief in support of the price cap. Now the ruling “serves as a precedent that could influence future digital rights policies” in the U.S., says Access Now’s Willmary Escoto. Read now via Access Now

Opportunities and other highlights

REGISTER: “Bread&Net online: digital rights in times of war”

How can we safeguard digital rights during conflict and war? From May 13-15, SMEX will hold Bread&Net Online, a fully virtual convening for the digital rights community in West Asia and North Africa to discuss emerging challenges and efforts to create just and free internet societies, particularly given the ongoing war in Israel/Palestine. Attendance is free and open to all, so check out the agenda and join us thereLearn more via Bread&Net

REGISTER: "Out of the box: digital transformation in humanitarian action"

Humanitarian organizations and practitioners often manage large amounts of data about vulnerable people without fully exploring how these systems impact human rights. On May 22 at 12:00 CEST, the Centre for Humanitarian Action will host a webinar to discuss "future-proofing skills, capacities, and standards" for humanitarian actors undergoing digital transformation, featuring Access Now's Giulio Coppi and other experts. Learn more and register now. Learn More via CHA