Countries buying software to spy on citizens around globe

Advanced spying abilities have become available to tinpot dictators around the world thanks to a German company selling them the technology, according to a report by researchers at Citizen Lab of the University of Toronto.

The researchers identified 32 countries where "at least one" government entity was using the software, called FinFisher. The software allows users to log keystrokes and access microphones and cameras on infected computers, among other things.

The Munich-based company that produces the software, FinFisher GmbH, says the tool is meant to be used by law enforcement agencies in countries that purchase it. However, many of the countries that Citizen Lab identified as using the software, such as Bangladesh, Serbia and Egypt, have lackluster records on human rights.

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The most recent incident was reported in Uganda after a "progress report" was leaked to Privacy International this week. The report, written by an intelligence official and directed at the Ugandan president, detailed covert methods to "collect information and data" that was to be used to "manage and control the media houses and opposition politicians, which in the worst case scenario, may involve blackmailing them especially after personal information is in our hands."

Perhaps most concerning to Americans, the software can also be used to spy on citizens of other countries. At least one country, Ethiopia, has already used it to spy on residents of the United States and United Kingdom. (The country was snooping on Ethiopian dissidents.)

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