Tech giants could be complicit in Saudi surveillance

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Microsoft and Google, are facing mounting criticism as they forge ahead with plans to establish cloud storage centers in Saudi Arabia. Human rights activists fear that the lack of robust privacy laws in the country and its history of persecuting dissidents could put these tech companies at risk of becoming complicit in Saudi surveillance and repression.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman aims to transform Saudi Arabia into a tech hub through “Vision 2030.” This includes the development of Neom, a $1 trillion data-driven megacity. Microsoft pledged $2 billion for a cloud storage facility, and Google plans to establish a cloud center in the country.

Activists are raising concerns about potential misuse of data for government persecution. This is because Saudi’s security laws grant authorities broad access to data, and the tech giants involved have not disclosed their data protection plans. Given Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, the activists urge companies to prioritize user privacy and human rights.

Marwa Fatafta from Access Now raised concerns about human rights and privacy issues, questioning if Google and Microsoft have properly evaluated the risks and safeguards for their infrastructure in Saudi Arabia. While Professor Alan Woodward of the University of Surrey warned that the Saudi government’s influence might enable access to sensitive political information stored on cloud services, which could then be used against dissidents and critics.

Both Microsoft and Google have stated their commitment to human rights but have provided limited specifics on how they will protect data privacy while operating in a country with a questionable human rights record.

The sources for this piece include an article in BusinessInsider.

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