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Tech Companies’ Deals with Saudi Arabia Raise Concerns Over Data Privacy and Surveillance

Tech giants Microsoft and Google are under scrutiny for their partnerships with Saudi Arabia, as concerns rise over data privacy and the potential for mass surveillance and repression. The companies are involved in creating cloud storage centers in the kingdom as part of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious “Vision 2030” plan to transform the country into a technology and innovation hub.

However, human rights activists are warning that Saudi Arabia’s weak privacy laws and track record of persecuting dissidents could lead to abuse of the vast stores of digital information stored in the kingdom. Under Saudi law, security services have broad powers to access data, and companies may be compelled to hand over private information under ill-defined and wide-ranging national security laws.

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Tech companies like Microsoft and Google have not disclosed how they plan to protect the privacy of data hosted in Saudi Arabia, leading to concerns that private citizen data could be handed over to the Saudi government. Activists argue that these companies should conduct thorough investigations to mitigate potential human rights abuses and privacy violations.

The Neom Megacity Project Raises Surveillance Concerns

One particular area of concern is the Neom megacity, a trillion-dollar futuristic city being built in the northwest of Saudi Arabia. The city is envisioned as a global hub for technology and innovation, relying on user data accessed through smartphones to operate various services.

However, human rights activists fear that this vast amount of data could be used for mass surveillance by the Saudi authorities, potentially suppressing dissent and violating citizens’ privacy.

Credits: DepositPhotos

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Both Google and Microsoft have been silent on their involvement in building Neom’s digital infrastructure, leaving uncertainty about the extent of their participation and the potential impact on data privacy.

The Balancing Act of Saudi Arabia’s Vision

Saudi Arabia’s tech ambitions are part of a broader effort to diversify the economy and attract foreign investment. While the country seeks to portray itself as open to innovation and reform, critics argue that its authoritarian powers and human rights abuses cast a shadow over its intentions.

Tech companies like Microsoft and Google are being challenged to prioritize human rights, publish “due diligence” reports assessing their ethical operations in Saudi Arabia, and clearly outline how they plan to safeguard user data from potential misuse by the government. Balancing economic opportunities with respect to human rights remains a significant challenge for companies operating in countries with poor human rights records.

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Malik is a skilled writer with a passion for news and current events. With their keen eye for detail, they provide insightful perspectives on the latest happenings. Stay informed and engaged!