Washington, DCToday, Representative John Curtis (R-UT), a Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Co-Chair of Ideological Competition for the China Task Force, and Representative Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor introduced the Foreign Advanced Technology Surveillance Accountability Act, bipartisan legislation to push back against countries’ adoption of advanced technology surveillance equipment.

The bipartisan bill would recognize unreasonable or oppressive government surveillance as a human rights abuse. It would also require a report on whether countries have imported or unlawfully obtained biometric or facial recognition data from other countries.

Modern technology is the direct result of innovation by democratic people and countries. However, in many dictatorships, technology has been misused to lessen the accountability of leaders and increase human rights abuses such as torture or unjust detention,” said Curtis.“My bill, the Foreign Advanced Technology Surveillance Accountability Act, brings the State Department’s Annual Report on Human Rights Practices into the 21st century to counter the growing adoption of advanced technology surveillance equipment by foreign governments.”

“Private companies should not be selling advanced surveillance capabilities to dictatorships that spy on dissidents and journalists,” said Malinowski.“This bill will require the State Department to tell us when that happens so that appropriate restrictions can be put into place.”

Statements of Support

Adrian Shahbaz, Research Director for Technology and Democracy at Freedom House: “Governments around the world are increasingly employing surveillance as a tool of oppression and control in violation of internationally recognized human rights. As surveillance technologies are widely deployed to address the pandemic, this legislation to document human rights violations related to excessive surveillance is especially important.”

Andrea Prasow, Washington Director at Human Rights Watch: “The State Department’s annual human rights reports should reflect the realities of the world now, which includes new forms of repression online. This bill will help expose to public scrutiny which countries use surveillance technologies to restrict the rights of their people, and what tools they utilize. And US policymakers, who rely on these reports, will now have a fuller picture of rights violations around the world.”

Full text of the bill is available [HERE].