Trade in surveillance equipment has raise concerns amongst human rights activist who warn the technology could fall into the hands of repressive regimes. US Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.), who proposed a bill to restrict sale of surveillance gear abroad, said repressive dictatorships survived due to “propaganda and secret police.”
Some of the technology on sale includes trackers which allow hundreds of cell phones to be tracked at once. It also includes devices which allow a computer to snap a picture of its owner and send the image to a third party. Although the US Commerce Department regulates the export of surveillance equipment, its powers to enforce restrictions is severely limited especially once the products leave the United States; Countries which have economic sanctions may still be able to acquire the goods.
The Northern Virginia technology entrepreneur, Jerry Lucas estimates the surveillance technology sales to be $5 billion.