New guide: surveillance technology investors face significant risks if human rights are ignored

Controversies surrounding NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware and the inherent bias of facial recognition systems highlight the need for immediate and improved due diligence for these emerging technologies. 

A new guide launched today on effective due diligence will help shareholders with investments in the surveillance technology ecosystem identify, assess, prevent, and mitigate increasing human rights and other material risks. The intrusive and pervasive nature of these emerging technologies has led to invasions of privacy, violence, and discrimination, frequently against marginalised communities. However, for those investing in this rapidly developing industry there is still a long way to go to fully recognise the significant threats involved – and their critical role in preventing and mitigating them. 

Investors have a responsibility to ensure their portfolio companies are respecting human rights and are not unnecessarily exposed to legal, reputational, and financial risks. Navigating the Surveillance Technology Ecosystem: A human rights due diligence guide for investors provides shareholders with a deeper understanding of the potential human rights issues going unnoticed in their portfolio companies’ value chains and a framework for making rights-respecting investment decisions. Based on consultations with digital rights advocates, due diligence modeling experts and investors, the Guide is ultimately designed to help investors advance corporate accountability throughout the surveillance technology ecosystem. 

Christen Dobson, Tech & Human Rights Senior Programme Manager, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, said: “The surveillance technology industry impacts people’s fundamental rights in unprecedented ways. This Guide provides investors with the tools they need to implement appropriate steps to prevent human rights harm. We know from recent revelations concerning companies like NSO Group and Facebook (Meta) that surveillance technologies are being used to spy on human rights activists and journalists, reinforce discrimination, and facilitate arbitrary detention. This must stop.”  

Sam Jones, President, Heartland Initiative, said: “As the tide of authoritarianism rises and democracy ebbs worldwide, leading investors are confronted with the stark truth that threats to human rights are increasingly threats to the bottom line. There is perhaps no better example of this nexus between human rights saliency and financial materiality than the surveillance technology ecosystem. The Guide is designed to help investors navigate this complex network of states, companies, communities, and individuals, with an eye to ensuring that emerging technologies are used to strengthen human rights and democratic freedoms around the world.” 

Navigating the Surveillance Technology Ecosystem: A human rights due diligence guide for investors is a product of the Surveillance Technologies Accountability Project, a joint initiative of Access Now,, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Heartland Initiative, Paradigm Initiative, and R3D – Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales.  

Read the full guide and summary.