Concerns regarding surveillance have surfaced at the United Nations COP28 climate summit in Dubai, where cameras from Emirati company Presight were observed all over the venue. Presight, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi’s G42, falls under the supervision of the UAE’s influential national security adviser and has previously faced accusations of spying. The UAE is said to have one of the highest concentrations of surveillance cameras per capita globally, leading to fears about civil liberties. These concerns have raised questions surrounding the potential infringement of privacy and the misuse of data collected by the surveillance at the climate summit. Furthermore, it sparks a larger debate on the delicate balance between public safety and individual rights and the impact such surveillance may have on activists, journalists, and delegates attending COP28.
Emirati committee’s stance on privacy and security
The Emirati committee responsible for organizing COP28 has argued that only the U.N.’s Department for Safety and Security can access data from security cameras in the designated Blue Zone, dismissing any claims of privacy violations as baseless. This strong stance taken by the committee showcases their commitment to ensuring the security and privacy of all participants within the designated area. Furthermore, they emphasize that the surveillance in place is solely to maintain a safe and secure environment during COP28, and any concerns regarding potential misuse of the collected data should be directed to the U.N.’s Department for Safety and Security.
Human rights perspective
Human Rights Watch researcher Joey Shea stated, “We’ve just assumed at every point in this conference that someone is watching, someone is listening.” Numerous cameras display G42 and Presight logos and can be found in areas such as the summit’s Media Center and protest locations. These surveillance technologies, achieved through a collaboration between G42 and Presight, enable constant monitoring of attendees and protesters alike. Concerns have been raised about the potential violation of privacy and the potential consequences for individuals expressing dissenting opinions during the summit.
Amnesty International’s viewpoint on UAE surveillance
Marta Schaaf from Amnesty International remarked that the widespread surveillance in the UAE has generated an “atmosphere of fear and tension.” She emphasized that this pervasive monitoring has led to a significant decline in the country’s freedom of expression and individual privacy. The oppressive environment has impacted activists, dissidents, and everyday citizens, who are increasingly cautious about online activities and communications.
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