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UK defense company sold powerful surveillance tech to Mid East

Its Evident system could monitor an entire country.
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Bloomberg via Getty Images

The BBC reported today that the UK defense company BAE systems sold powerful surveillance technology to a number of countries in the Middle East. The report comes after a year-long investigation spearheaded by BBC Arabic and the Danish newspaper, Dagbladet Information.

The surveillance technology in question was sold through ETI, a Danish subsidiary of BAE systems. It had created a system called Evident that let governments conduct mass surveillance, which included pinpointing a person's location via cell phone data, viewing the entirety of someone's online activity and even decrypting messages. According to a BBC source, Evident could let you intercept an entire country's internet traffic.

BAE sold the surveillance technology to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Morocco and Algeria. One source said Tunisian president Ben Ali used Evident against opponents during the Arab Spring uprisings.

According to some email exchanges between British and Danish export authorities obtained by the BBC, the UK made it clear that they didn't want Evident to be exported to the UAE. The British authorities said they would deny such an export if it were up to them, but the Danish authorities approved the sale nonetheless.

The Evident sales were made completely legally. But with government surveillance of citizens taking place on a number of fronts, this kind of technology in anyone's hands seems like a bad idea.

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