Today, the U.S. Department of State released guidance to assist U.S. companies seeking to prevent their products or services with surveillance capabilities from being misused by foreign government end-users to commit human rights abuses.
Too often, products or services with surveillance capabilities are misused by foreign governments to stifle dissent; harass human rights defenders; intimidate minority communities; discourage whistle-blowers; chill free expression; target political opponents, journalists, and lawyers; or interfere arbitrarily or unlawfully with privacy. Governments employ these items as part of a broader state apparatus of oppression that violates and abuses human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedoms of expression, religion or belief, and association, and the right of peaceful assembly.
To help minimize this risk, the U.S. Department of State developed voluntary human rights due diligence guidance to help U.S. businesses conduct a human rights impact assessment on relevant products or services, and to provide them with a series of considerations to weigh prior to engaging in transactions with governments. The guidance – a first-of-its-kind tool to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights on this issue – is intended to be particularly helpful for U.S. businesses that want to undertake a human rights review when the U.S. government does not require an authorization for export.