Choosing the privacy button does not mean they’re not keeping a tab on you 

Human rights organisation SANAD is calling for a change in legislation to prevent the Saudi government requesting information, and tech companies from sharing big data.

“The right to privacy of every individual has been guaranteed by heavenly laws, international laws and universal human rights charters, and confirm that it should not be violated in any way.

“Saudi Arabia does not observe the most basic human rights. There is no minimum standard of right to preserve privacy for individuals – the technology space has therefore become a fertile ground for the authorities to violate the privacy of citizens in general, and human rights activists in particular,” said SANAD.

According to the human rights organisation the subject of privacy is fast becoming one the most pressing matters in the Middle East region. Especially with the advancement of IT and the ability to generate, collect, analyse and store information and the subsequent developments that affect privacy laws.  

The concerns come as a number of social activists and free thinkers, who have had their privacy violated before their arrest are currently imprisoned. State authorities have used tactics such as spying on their smart devices, and hacking emails and accounts on social media platforms. There are also allegations against the state for monitoring movement, private affairs and their close circles and personal relationships – all an attempt to paint a certain picture to be used against the activists.

Despite counterclaims from the police and state authorities, the reality is violations of privacy are present and continuing. Its consequences on individuals are clear, and it has victims that the authorities cannot deny – the highest profiled incident being the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Turkish soil. It remains the clearest example of how the misuse and transformation of privacy violations, espionage and tracking can result into a heinous crime.

“Privacy should be a basic human right to which other fundamental rights are related, such as the right of expression, freedom of opinion and assembly,” says SANAD. 

The human rights organisation maintains the Khashoggi murder is the tip of the iceberg as there are many accounts of disappearances, kidnappings and unresolved murders of activists and dissidents linked to the state authorities and Saudi regime.

SANAD are proposing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia limit the use of personal data held by state authorities. Currently, personal data may be exchanged between different state departments and agencies without a judicial order or legal justification. In addition, there are no limits on the type and quantity of personal data that can be collected and accessed by the state – a deliberate violation of the most basic privacy guaranteed by international laws.

SANAD believes the international community, with its official, legal and human rights institutions should apply pressure and take a stand to address the privacy violations in Saudi Arabia. “It is a thorny matter, adding to the growing list of violations of rights and freedoms practiced by the Saudi authorities against their citizens,” it added.

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