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Egypt: Activists fear surveillance at COP27

November 8, 2022 at 12:29 pm

In this photo illustration, the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference COP27 logo is seen on a smartphone screen [Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images]

Journalists and activists at COP27 are increasingly afraid they are being subject to surveillance at the UN climate summit being held in Sharm El-Sheikh.

Attendees are being warned not to download a mobile app created by the government with the floorplan and conference programme.

Experts have warned that the app gives intelligence services access to their location, photos and emails. There are concerns that authorities will use it to gather information about civil society.

Civil society has been heavily repressed in Egypt where there are some 60,000 political prisoners in jail who are systematically tortured and denied appropriate medical care.

In the lead up to the conference, human rights groups campaigned to allow the meaningful participation of activists and journalists, who are essential for bringing about climate change.

To download the conference app, participants must give their mobile number, nationality and passport details and enable location tracking.

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“Our application reserves the right to access customer accounts for technical and administrative purposes,” the app informs attendees.

During the 2019 African summit in Cairo, participants complained they were being followed and their rooms were being searched.

Several African activists were denied visas or granted them very late so that they could not make arrangements to attend.

The Egyptian government is increasingly committing cybercrimes against its civilians, with the government in 2018 ratifying the anti-cybercrime law.

Among the provisions, the law stipulates that telecommunications companies must retain user data for 180 days to assist authorities in identifying users.

In October 2019, cybersecurity firm Check Point Software Technologies released a report which detailed how the Egyptian government had conducted a series of cyberattacks on journalists, lawyers and academics against the regime.

Software was installed on their phones allowing authorities to read files, emails and track their locations, which led to the arrest of at least two activists.