Cop27 is becoming an overwhelming Big Brother

Cop27 is becoming an overwhelming Big Brother

Sharm el Sheikh - There is a COP27 for climate and a COP27 for human rights. Despite attempts to separate issues, concerns about digital security, and beyond, are growing at the United Nations Conference of the Parties in Egypt. After an initial review by Amnesty International, the Politico newspaper had the official application of the event analyzed again by four different security experts. According to sources interviewed by the newspaper, which are added to an analysis conducted independently, the app could be used to hack emails and messages from users. According to two of the experts interviewed, even encrypted calls on Whatsapp could be heard.

The application was created by the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, which would be the terminal of the backdoors left open in the Android version. Google, contacted by the newspaper, claimed to have checked the app (located in the virtual store) without finding any violations of its policies. The experts have not examined the application for iOs, present on the Apple store. The Californian company would have refused to comment, writes Politico.

The invitation to download the Cop application appears everywhere in Sharm, not only on the official website (photo: Antonio Piemontese)

Crossed databases

“Quest ' application is a cyber-weapon ”, said one of the consultants interviewed, under guarantee of anonymity. Although some features are all in all common, the potential risk derives from the intersection with government databases, in a conference that gathers forty-five thousand attendees (UN data), including many high-level decision makers and not a few activists.

Politico has ascertained that French, German and Canadian delegates have downloaded the application, which offers tremendous help in navigating through immense avenues and countless panels. But the unsuspecting users could be many more. As can confirm, Indonesian delegates did this too, taking their mobile phones with them in all closed-door negotiations. And they are unlikely to be the only ones. Among the members of the Italian delegation the rumor would have spread days ago, perhaps also thanks to a team order: but it is not possible to confirm that it arrived on time, and to everyone: also because the application was available in virtual stores before the beginning of Cop27. It would have been the case to have it analyzed.

The tech surveillance hood over Cop27 Media sites and NGOs blacked out. Cameras in 500 taxis. A very invasive event app. At the climate conference, the feeling is that we are constantly being spied on by the Egyptian regime. While the protests of the activists struggle to have a voice. Since the el-Fattah case

Pins and security checks

The air in Sharm has grown heavier and heavier. Little remains of the light-heartedness of other occasions between the avenues. The climate talks trudge between the molasses of the initial declarations, and the flood of lobbyists present, never so many; the demonstrations, somehow granted in the Blue Zone on condition not to talk about politics and not to exhibit symbols, are sterilized, and to the reporter they all seem to play the same script, with always the same signs that speak of debt reduction and abandonment of fossil sources . Those who follow the procedures can rest assured. But it doesn't take much to activate the radars.

Sean Currie, a young Scottish activist from the Federation of Young European Greens, tells that he was searched on the threshold of the international zone. “The metal detector rang, and during the search four pins the size of a two-euro coin with Arabic writing fell from my backpack, each dedicated to a different political prisoner, as Alaa Abdel Fattah says -. I got them from Amnesty International. They were being handed back to me, but then the attendant read the sentences. At that point, I was surrounded by six or seven Egyptian security colleagues. I tried to let the men of the United Nations see me by waving my arm: one of them intervened and tried to mediate. It took the intervention of a UN leader of a certain level to unblock the situation, not without difficulty. They searched me, and the UN official suggested I cooperate. In general, he said, in these cases you try to ease the tension. But the Egyptians took my passport and took a photo ”.

"Once the checks were completed, - continues Currie - the UN agent took me aside and took me for a ride, telling me that from that moment on I should be careful, because we would both be been under observation. In short, be careful what I was wearing, what I said and did ”. Now Currie fears problems may arise. “Not so much when I'm in here, but when I go out in the evening. Because they have my data, they know where I am staying, and there are cameras on the taxis in Sharm ”. His return ticket is for November 21, when Cop is now over.

At Cop27 China and the United States talk to each other again The climate brings the two powers closer together, after the diplomatic rift of recent months. It could be the prelude to a Biden-Xi meeting at the G20

Amnesty talks about espionage

Philip Luther, head of Amnesty International for the Middle East and North Africa, confirms the climate of tension in an interview with "I was with the secretary general of the organization and other colleagues, we met with Egyptian civil society, our local partners and frequently, when we sat in a quiet place to discuss the human rights situation in Egypt, someone would suddenly appear and he sat right behind us. Obviously, as a precaution, we chose open spaces, quiet areas, certainly not meeting rooms, ”he says.

So did you feel like you were being spied on in the corridors too? “If it were only my concern it could be discarded - he replies -. But it was absolutely the feedback received from other Egyptian human rights activists and colleagues, who know what to watch out for in this country. Let me give you an example: we had an event with Human Rights Watch at the German pavilion. Among others spoke Abdel Fattah's sister: and in the audience there were individuals, people who could be agents of local security. It was scary, because they took pictures and videos of those present with Egyptian features. A journalist left the room out of fear ".

Luther says he was afraid" not so much for me, who have already left Sharm and am now in Cairo, but for our Egyptian colleagues engaged in the defense of human rights, because of course they know their reality of this country. The Egyptian authorities have a terrible track record of repression against those who defend these causes, but also against those who speak to the media, criticize the regime, meet with diplomats. Many have been arrested, prosecuted on charges of spreading false news or threatening security: our real concern is that this pattern will recur when the spotlight of the conference in Egypt goes out ”.

The head of the organization expects consequences: “What I think is based on a pattern that has already been revealed on other occasions. We have seen colleagues from one of Egypt's leading human rights organizations arrested just for talking to diplomats. Other people, who have sent protests to UN offices dealing with these issues, have been threatened or intimidated by the Egyptian authorities. This is why Amnesty and other organizations will be extremely vigilant in the period following COP27. It is absolutely vital. As is putting pressure on foreign governments to keep attention on what will happen ”.

Buying and selling permits to emit CO 2 always pays off In 2050 they could generate one trillion dollars a year. For this reason, at COP27, the United Nations climate conference in Egypt, the states are aiming to find an agreement to regulate international markets. The challenges open to negotiations

A Big Brother

What at first might have been a reporter's impression, after five days you found abundant confirmation. The writer has refused interviews with local sources willing to chat: too risky to be seen with a journalist in here. It is useless to jeopardize the future of those who will remain in the country. It is not enough to use Signal: the congress center and the city of Sharm are a gigantic Big Brother, where the feeling of being spied on is constant. Microphones and cameras could also be placed in the press room, and it probably is. To be honest, we don't feel too safe publishing stories like these either.

Of course, it should be emphasized that the Egyptian case is not unique in all respects. Each state cares about its own security, perhaps for reasons that cannot be shared, but which Machiavellian can understand by putting oneself in the shoes of an autocrat. Surely, even in Glasgow the British secret services were on guard. And no one has verified the official application of Cop26, examining it in depth, as happened on this occasion. But it's hard to think that, last year, anyone was afraid to leave the SEC, the Scottish city's convention center, at the end of the day. Or he found himself without a room for the night, woken up by people asking for documents, as happened to many young delegates in this Las Vegas by the Red Sea.

The question remains whether it is inevitable that the United Nations will organize conferences in states that do not intend to guarantee minimum safety standards and institutional etiquette for delegates. Luther is skeptical: "Human rights are not among the parameters taken into consideration at the UN to decide where to organize this kind of events" he says. In any case, he concludes, "we are happy to participate in COP, because the decisions on justice climate change are taken here. It is our Egyptian colleagues who encouraged us to come, because it is a rare opportunity to bring them solidarity: Amnesty was able to visit the country in 2014 for the last time ". Eight years ago.

Powered by Blogger.