(MENAFN) President Biden has issued an executive order restricting the U.S. government's use of commercial spyware tools for surveillance purposes. These tools have been used to monitor human rights activists, journalists, and dissidents around the world, raising concerns about potential abuses of power. The order comes in response to growing global concerns about programs that can capture text messages and other cellphone data, including "zero-click" exploits that can infect phones without the user clicking on a malicious link.
Governments around the world, including the United States, have been known to collect large amounts of data for intelligence and law enforcement purposes, including communications from their own citizens. The proliferation of commercial spyware has made powerful tools newly available to smaller countries, but also created new opportunities for abuse and repression, according to researchers and human-rights activists.
The White House released the executive order ahead of its second summit for democracy, stating that it "demonstrates the United States' leadership in, and commitment to, advancing technology for democracy, including by countering the misuse of commercial spyware and other surveillance technology."
Billed as a prohibition on using commercial spyware "that poses risks to national security," the order will require the head of any U.S. agency using commercial programs to certify that the program doesn't pose a significant counterintelligence or other security risk. Factors that will be used to determine the level of security risk include whether a foreign actor has used the program to monitor U.S. citizens without legal authorization or surveil human rights activists and other dissidents.
While the executive order allows for some exceptions, it represents a significant step towards curbing the use of commercial spyware for surveillance purposes. The order also reflects a broader concern about the impact of technology on democracy, with the White House emphasizing the need to "advance technology for democracy" and counter the misuse of surveillance technology.
As the global debate about the role of technology in society continues to evolve, it is likely that issues like commercial spyware and surveillance will remain at the forefront of public discussion. The executive order issued by President Biden represents a significant move towards greater regulation and oversight of these technologies, but it remains to be seen what further steps will be taken in the future.
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