There are lots of conspiracy theories going around about the government of various countries. Sure, some of these theories are based on truth, while others are steeped in paranoia. However, it’s pretty hard to deny that there are several countries who have very sneaky ways of keeping tabs on their citizens.
The United States has been doing this for quite some time, but there are other countries who also want to “know too much” about the people living in its borders. These extreme security measures could be used as a way to keep the citizens of a country safe. After all, spying could reveal whether a person is a traitor or is planning some type of dangerous attack. However, spying has long been used as a means of blackmail, and it’s no secret that there are plenty of things government officials now, but just aren’t telling us.
When it comes to citizen surveillance, how much is too much? Could spy technology be used to keep us all safer? Is the technology just a form of entertainment for people in power who are way too nosey for their own good? Many of these questions may remain unanswered for quite some time. But what we do know is that national spying is a real thing. Here are 12 countries known for spying on their citizens.
Robert Mugabe’s government in Zimbabwe has been successful when it comes to winning elections. In recent years, the government has requested that all broadband providers and telephone companies begin saving information from customers for up to five years. The information that these companies gather is stored in a national database. Zimbabwe’s government claims that this form of spying is a way for the country to cut down on crime. Sure, this may be effective when it comes to winning certain cases. However, it seems that the spying efforts are just another one of Zimbabwe’s ways to try to get information on the opposition.
With all the political and social unrest that Syria has witnessed lately, it’s no surprise that the country has been spying on its citizens for quite some time. The internet in Syria controls two of the main corporations in the country. Both of these companies were founded by Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria. These companies record all the online and off-line activities of its citizens. When people try to protest in the country, the online companies will shut down internet access or block text messages. According to Reporters Without Borders, Syria is one of the world’s most spy-happy countries.
10. New Zealand
It may come as a surprise that New Zealand spies on its citizens. There’s a fairly new law in the country that allows the main intelligence agency to spy on the people who live in New Zealand. Once New Zealand officials learned that the Government Communications Security Bureau had been spying on citizens illegally, the government passed new regulations to make it less of a crime. Just like in many other countries, there has been political opposition in New Zealand, which may be why the government feels that spying could be beneficial. The government claims that the surveillance is in place to protect the people, but of course, not all citizens agree with that.
Bahrain is run by a monarchy. The people of the country have protested this for quite some time, and the monarchy has responded by stamping out any attempts to change the government’s policies. FinFisher is the company Bahrain’s government uses to monitor opposition activities in the country and abroad. The UK, another country that is known for spying on its citizens, is where FinFisher was founded. The software works by sending protesters or activists an email about an important issue like political prisoners or government torture methods. When the activists opens the email, the software hidden in the email is activated. The software allows the Bahrain government to copy files and even intercept calls on Skype.
Canada is considered one of the nicest countries in the world. Surprisingly, Canada also has ways to spy on its citizens. Recently, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association accused the Canadian government of illegal domestic surveillance. The group countered that the Communications Security Establishment Canada or CSEC, was actually collecting information about Canadian citizens. However, the CSEC denied this. All this finger-pointing could indicate that several Canadian government agencies are working together to get personal information about its citizens. Perhaps Canada is also trying to eliminate any opposition when it comes to its political policies. However, it’s unlikely that either agency will admit to domestic spying.
The Iranian government censors websites in the country, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The country is also fond of “deep packet inspections.” That’s a fancier way of saying that the government in Iran likes to collect personal information about its citizens. Iran uses Western corporations like Siemens and Nokia to accomplish this. The Wall Street Journal also indicates that Iran’s government can access private emails of citizens, and has access to their Twitter and Facebook accounts. The government also has the ability to track phone calls that are made over the internet. This is most likely a way to make sure that political enemies are not able to carry out their plans, and probably doesn’t have a lot to do with the safety of the people of Iran.
6. The United Kingdom
It’s no secret that the U.S. and the UK are pretty strong allies. They share pretty much everything, which includes records of phone calls from its respective citizens. The Government Communication Headquarters, known as GCHQ, is the intelligence agency for the UK, and has been sharing private citizen information through the National Security Association. The organization uses a program called PRISM to accomplish this. A number of citizens in Britain say that this practice is illegal. However, the UK government has maintained that it has not committed a crime by invading the privacy of its citizens. We can’t say we’re surprised.
Even though Vietnam doesn’t have a very strong communication system when compared to other countries like the United States or the United Kingdom, there’s still lots of government control in the country. Once Decree 72 was passed in Vietnam, bloggers in the country, as well as social media users, were not allowed to publish any material that made statements against the Vietnamese government. FinFisher, the same UK-based software that Bahrain uses for domestic spying, is prevalent in Vietnam as well. And just like Bahrain’s government, officials in Vietnam say that the software is in place so that the country can reduce and eliminate political opposition.
A newspaper in France called Le Monde published an article reporting that the government is spying on French citizens. The report also indicated that French people were being spied on in the same way that American citizens were being watched. Le Monde stated that the Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure collects data from citizens in France every day. This data includes emails, phone calls, text messages and social media account information. The information is allegedly stored in a government database for years, and could easily be used to incriminate French citizens. The government in France denies these claims, but that doesn’t necessarily make them false. After all, people don’t usually willingly come clean after spying on you.
Russia has long been known for spying on its citizens, and it seems that the spying has gotten more intense in recent years. The country has installed a surveillance system so that the government could listen in on the conversations of athletes and visitors during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. The technology was designed to allow the Russian government to tap into all online and phone conversations without notifying the person(s) involved in the communication. The surveillance system is known as SORM and was developed back in the 1980s. Usually, the spy system has been used by Russia to spy on countries that oppose them.
The Chinese government has made it no secret that it spies on its citizens. The country has various forms of advanced technology to record the activity of the people who live in China. While domestic spying has become somewhat normal in the country, some government employees in China have even started spying on each other. A number of public officials have reported finding wires in their cars or offices. Some individuals who work for the Chinese government have discovered wires in their showers. Bo Xilai, a Communist party member, even went to the extreme of wire-tapping the president of China. This is why Chinese government officials hug before meetings now. They pat each other down during the embrace to ensure no one is wearing a wire.
Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, has expressed her disapproval with the United States spying on her. German citizens also stated that they didn’t appreciate being spied on by the United States. However, the government that Merkel is leading was one of the main partners in the National Security Agency. That means Germany has been doing a lot of spying for quite some time. According to Der Spiegel, there are several German intelligence agencies that work with the National Security Agency to get information on German citizens. Even though the Cold War pact between Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States has ended (the pact prevented governments from spying on German citizens), there are still some unanswered questions. Perhaps Germany agreed to end the pact because the government now has “all the information it needs.” Time will tell.