Danish surveillance equipment being imported to Middle Eastern regimes

Human rights groups contend technology can be used to oppress

Documents obtained by the BBC and Information newspaper show that a Danish-British company has been given permission to sell mass surveillance tech to suppressing regimes in the Middle East.

The technology in question is so controversial that it requires a special permit from the Danish authorities – which happened earlier this year when BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, based in Nørresundby, was granted an export permit from the business authority, Erhvervsstyrelsen.

The human rights organisation Amnesty International Denmark is up in arms following the emergence of the information.

“It’s almost unbearable to think that Denmark has given permission to export a technology that can become a tool of the oppression we are seeing in Saudi Arabia right now,” Trine Christensen, the secretary general of Amnesty International Denmark, told DR Nyheder.

READ MORE: We want 1984: Danes yearn for more surveillance

Invasive technology
The permit was granted immediately following a business conference in Saudi Arabia that the Crown Prince Couple attended.

BAE Systems Applied Intelligence – a subsidiary of the British weapons giant BAE Systems – was also granted permission to sell surveillance tech to Oman and Qatar.

According to Jan Johannsen, the technical head of the IT security firm Check Point, the technology in question can be used by intelligence agencies to combat criminals and terrorists.

“It can gather information from pretty much all types of devices we use today, such as smartphones, normal mobile phones and laptops,” Johannsen told DR Nyheder.

To export this type of tech out of the EU, companies must have permission from Erhvervsstyrelsen, which in turn must ask the Foreign Ministry for any objections. This helps prevent European companies from contributing to human rights abuses abroad.

BAE Systems responded to the claims by saying it will pull the plug on trades if there is any suspicion that the systems are being abused.