Western governments eye up the latest spy kit

A report has shown that western government agencies are attending surveillance trade shows where they rub shoulders with countries that have histories of spying on their citizens.

According to a joint report released by Privacy international and the Wall Street Journal, government agencies in the UK – such as the Home Office and SOCA – have been attending the ISS World.

Other attendees include intelligence agency GCHQ, the Ministry of Defence and the Embassy of the UK. Even Strathclyde Police has been shelling out on the $1,295 per head fee to attend the shows.  TechEye has approached the Home Office but it is keeping quiet.

Privacy International points out it is not just the FBI that is looking at the latest in spyware, there are also small town police forces and even the US Fish and Wildlife Service, engaged as it is in the pursuit of underwater espionage.

At the events listed, going back to 2006, this means rubbing shoulders with some countries that have earned reputations for human rights abuses such as Libya and Egypt.

The sort of products on offer include devices and programs that can intercept mobile phone calls or text messages on a mass scale, or malware and spyware that can take over computers.

The events, held in Washington DC, Dubai and Prague from 2006 to 2009, also cover talks and seminars with titles such as “Wiretapping – understanding the basics”.

Quite why some police departments in the US with less than five staff, covering a rural area of roughly one thousand people would need to get their hand on such equipment is unclear.  It certainly illuminates an industry which is offering some heavy duty monitoring equipment to those willing to spend the cash.

There has been plenty of controversy over western firms readily supplying surveillance equipment to regimes with shady track records. Wikileaks most recently drummed up a storm when it said every country in the world is interested in grey area monitoring equipment.

While the ISS World might shy away from media contact – banning journalists from attending events – it seems that the surveillance industry is set to continue to grow.