In today’s world, digital surveillance is a reality that many people face, especially those who are considered as persons of interest by nation states. Persons of interest are individuals who have some kind of influence, power, or access to sensitive information that may pose a threat or an opportunity to a nation state’s interests. They may include journalists, activists, dissidents, whistleblowers, business leaders, politicians, diplomats, researchers, lawyers, environmentalists and NGO workers.

Nation states may use various methods and tools to monitor and track the activities, communications, and movements of persons of interest. These may include:

  • Hacking into their devices and accounts to access their data, contacts, messages, emails, photos, videos, etc.
  • Installing malware or spyware on their devices to record their keystrokes, screen activity, microphone input, camera output, etc.
  • Intercepting their network traffic to analyze their browsing history, online searches, social media posts, etc.
  • Using facial recognition, biometric scanning, or RFID chips to identify them in public places or at border crossings.
  • Deploying human agents or informants to follow them, befriend them, or infiltrate their circles.
  • Using satellites, drones, cameras, or other sensors to track their location and movements.

These methods and tools may pose serious risks to the privacy, security, and safety of persons of interest. They may expose their personal information, compromise their sources or contacts, reveal their plans or intentions, or endanger their lives. Therefore, it is important for persons of interest to take precautions and countermeasures when travelling abroad to avoid or minimize the effects of digital surveillance by nation states.

Nation-states that are likely to exercise some form of digital suerveillance on UK persons of interest:

  • Austria
  • China
  • France
  • India
  • Iran
  • Italy
  • Pakistan
  • Palestine
  • Philippines
  • Russia
  • Spain
  • Syria
  • United States
  • Vietnam

Some of the precautions and countermeasures that persons of interest can take when travelling abroad are:

  • Encrypting their data and communications using strong passwords and encryption software such as Signal, Tor Browser, VPNs, etc.
  • Using burner phones or devices that have no personal data or accounts on them and can be disposed of after use.
  • Avoiding public Wi-Fi networks or using them with VPNs or Tor Browser to prevent network snooping or hacking.
  • Covering their cameras and microphones on their devices with tape or stickers to prevent remote spying.
  • Using cash or prepaid cards instead of credit cards or bank cards to avoid financial tracking.
  • Travelling with trusted companions or groups to avoid isolation or vulnerability.
  • Being aware of their surroundings and avoiding suspicious people or places that may be monitored or targeted by nation states.

By following these precautions and countermeasures, persons of interest can reduce the chances and impacts of digital surveillance by nation states when travelling abroad. However, they should also be aware that these measures are not foolproof and that they may still face some risks or challenges. Therefore, they should always exercise caution and discretion when dealing with sensitive matters or information that may attract the attention of nation states.

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Nation-states that are generally considered to be continually active in surveilling persons of interest:

  • Bangladesh
  • China
  • Egypt
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico

  • Saudi Arabia
  • Singapore
  • UAE
  • Vietnam
  • Yemen