The U.S. National Security Agency has set the standard for large-scale domestic and international surveillance over the last few years, but other global intelligence agencies have taken note, and many have begun developing similar Internet and smartphone snooping capabilities. According to Privacy International, Pakistan’s ISI is working hard to develop a digital surveillance system much like that in the U.S.
A spokesperson for Pakistan’s military said he was not authorized to comment on the situation at this time, reports The Express Tribune.
Pakistan’s ISI tapping Internet backbone for intelligence
The Privacy International report claims that Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence agency is working to develop toolkits for domestic surveillance using both Western and Chinese technology.
The report also alleges that the ISI was trying to get access to data from three of the four “landing sites” that pass through the port city of Karachi, which would give it access to a big chunk of global Internet traffic.
Using confidential, never before released documents, Privacy International proves that the ISI was trying to develop a mass surveillance system to access international undersea cables at three cable landing sites in Pakistan. The “Targeted IP Monitoring System and Common Operations Environments” would allow Pakistan to tap into and analyze the bulk of communications through and within the country. Given the system was estimated to have an intake of an 660 gigabytes per second, it would represent a huge expansion of Pakistan’s intelligence gathering capabilities.
When they undertook an analysis of the private surveillance industry’s role in Pakistan, Privacy International discovered that a mass surveillance system has been in place in the country since around 2005. Documents seen by PI indicate that the Pakistani government obtained this technology from domestic and foreign surveillance companies such as Alcatel, Ericsson, Huawei, SS8 and Utimaco.
Rights campaigners and opposition lawmakers in Pakistan requested that Islamabad make greater efforts to protect the privacy of its citizens following a leak of secret documents saying that British intelligence could track nearly everyone using the Internet in Pakistan.
The government of Pakistan is also working on its own cyber-crime bill, which social progressives say will significantly curtail freedom of expression and privacy unless it is amended
Concerns have also been expressed regarding a provision in the bill that permits domestic agencies to share intelligence with foreign spy agencies, and the requirement that service providers keep phone and email records for a year.
Statement from Privacy International officer
“These cables are going to route data through various countries and regions,” Matthew Rice, an advocacy officer for Privacy International, noted in an interview with the media “Some will go from Europe to Africa and all the way to Southeast Asia. From my reading that’s an explicit attempt to look at what’s going on.”
He also pointed out that traffic from North America and regional rival India would also be routed via the cables.
The Privacy International report concluded by saying that data collection system sought by the ISI “would rival some of the world’s most powerful surveillance programmes” even those of the U.S. and UK.