CAIRO: Amnesty International condemned Wednesday “indiscriminate mass surveillance” of social media in Egypt by the Ministry of Interior.
The surveillance would affect privacy and freedom of expression and is a means of “state repression,” Amnesty international said in Wednesday statement.
Last Sunday, the Minister of Interior assistant Abdel Fatah Othman said that the Ministry of Interior is monitoring social media such as Facebook and Twitter to track bomb makers.
“We aim to hunt the explosive makers who target the innocent. We do not seek to interfere into anyone’s privacy,” he told Bekhtesar talk show on Al-Mehwar channel Sunday.
“The plans by the Egyptian authorities to indiscriminately monitor social media a few months after the adoption of a new constitution guaranteeing the right to privacy shows the little regard they have for human rights or the rule of law,” Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director for Amnesty International, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said.
The statement added, “The Egyptian authorities have an abysmal track record when it comes to respecting the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly.”
Amnesty called the Egyptian government to make sure that these programs “comply with general principles under international law of legality, necessity, proportionality and judicial accountability.”
Othman said Egypt is not the only country that tracks social media, that the U.S. listens in to phone calls and supervise anyone who could threaten its national security.
“The watching system put by the ministry does not violate any individual’s privacy. The Ministry of Interior does not break the law and we respect the citizens’ rights of knowledge,” Othman said. The ministry looks for those who could cause threats to citizens by searching for specific words and terms online, such as “explosives,” to see how many people used this expression.
Twitter users created a hashtag #احنا_متراقبين that translates into “We are being watched,” mocking the surveillance of online social media. The hashtag trended in Egypt on Monday with about 29,800 tweets since Saturday evening.
Former Ministry of Religious Endowments Deputy Salem Abdel Galeel said Tuesday that surveillance on social media announced by the Ministry of Interior is “unlawful” because it violates privacy and freedoms, El-Balad reported.