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Indonesia’s ‘murky’ spyware imports raise rights fears: Amnesty

Indonesia's 'murky' spyware imports raise rights fears: Amnesty
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Indonesia has rolled out spyware tools sourced from Israel, the European Union and Malaysia, raising concerns about privacy and freedom of expression in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, Amnesty International said Thursday.

Online restrictions in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy have already come under fire from rights groups, who say laws have been used to target critics and to limit free speech on social media.

Jakarta deployed a range of invasive surveillance and spyware tools — against opponents, media and activists — between 2017 and 2023, Amnesty said in a joint investigation with Asian, Israeli and Western news outlets.

The tools were purchased from a network of brokers, resellers and vendors in Luxembourg, Israel, Malaysia and Singapore and used by companies and state agencies, including the National Police and National Cyber and Crypto Agency (BSSN), according to Amnesty.

The investigation also identified malicious domains allegedly used to target individuals in Indonesia.

“The murky trade in spyware tools to Indonesia adds another dangerous tool for potential intimidation. This cannot be allowed to continue,” Carolina Rocha da Silva of Amnesty’s Security Lab said in a statement.

The Communication and Information Ministry, the National Police, and BSSN did not immediately respond to AFP requests for comment.

Among the companies named in the investigation is Luxembourg-based Q Cyber Technologies SARL, which has been linked to the Israeli firm NSO Group whose Pegasus spyware has been used to target high-profile journalists and government officials.

The investigation said the companies have complex ownership structures and can obscure their exports, making oversight difficult as products make their way to Indonesia directly as well as indirectly.

In statements to Amnesty, Israel’s NSO Group said it conducts due diligence before approving sales, while Israel’s Defence Export Controls Agency said it authorises cyber exports to governments “only for anti-terror and law enforcement” means.

Indonesia and Israel do not have formal diplomatic relations and support for the Palestinian cause in the archipelago runs high.

Amnesty demanded Indonesia do more to protect its citizens from mass surveillance and intrusion.

“We call on the Indonesian government and parliament to enact meaningful regulation now, including a ban on highly invasive spyware which can never be used in a rights-respecting way,” Amnesty Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid told AFP.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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