Everyone has the right to freedom of speech and public participation. However, with rapid advances in technology, products are increasingly used by some governments (and businesses) to conduct surveillance on individuals. The data and information obtained may be used to censor, or even imprison, an individual. Businesses may knowingly develop products for this purpose or may unknowingly supply products with unintended surveillance and censorship capabilities.
The range of products at a higher risk of being purposefully or unintentionally used to restrict voice or public participation include biometric surveillance tools, network cameras, location tracking tools, recording equipment, sensors, data analytics software or services, internet firewall systems. Other less obvious products or services that may be misused for surveillance purposes can take many forms, and may include products or services that collect, use, analyse or store personal or sensitive data (regardless of their intended purpose).
Business enterprises risk unintentionally aiding governments or private entities, whether local or foreign, in a violation of human rights when they enter into transactions to supply such goods to entities that track and use collected information to censor, imprison or detain individuals. Persons at high risk include human rights activists and defenders, political opponents and critics, journalists and media personnel, lawyers, whistle-blowers, and minority communities.
Businesses must conduct due diligence – including in their supply chain – to assess and mitigate the risk of their products or services being used to restrict voice or public participation or to otherwise violate human rights. Businesses should assess the ability and extent to which their products or services may be used to violate human rights, review the human rights record of the intended government end user and the human rights laws and protections of the country or territory.