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Opposition calls on gov't to be open and transparent about dealings with Israeli cyber security firms

Published:Saturday | June 1, 2019 | 1:06 PM
Robinson...I believe we are all entitled to an assurance that the tools that are available to the government are not going to be misused or used in a way that’s different from their original intent.

The parliamentary Opposition says there are enough legitimate concerns about how Israeli cyber security companies operate that should prompt the Jamaican Government to be open and transparent about whether there are existing arrangements with any such firm.

Julian Robinson, the opposition spokesman on information and the knowledge economy who made the call, indicated that he was not asking for operational details, a move which he acknowledged would tip off criminals about the tools available to the security forces.

“But I believe we are all entitled to an assurance that the tools that are available to the government are not going to be misused or used in a way that’s different from their original intent,” said Robinson.

“These arrangements require openness and transparency,” he insisted.

Robinson, who was making his contribution to the 2019-2020 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives this week, also questioned whether Jamaica is a partner or has any collaboration with the Caribbean Israeli Centre for Cyber Defence.

“This is a centre which, as its purpose, provides cyber defence solutions for the Caribbean and to develop the capacity of information technology professions in law enforcement. It’s important to know whether we are part of that initiative and the extent of our involvement,” he reasoned.

Last September, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that his administration is open to establishing a framework of corporation with Israel in a number of areas, including cyber security.

Billions of dollars have also been allocated for a cyber security initiative in this fiscal year.

Robinson revisited an exchange he had with Holness last October when he raised questions, in Parliament, about whether the Jamaican Government had entered into any arrangement or relationship with the Isreali Government or private sector firm in the area of cyber security.

“The Prime Minister stood up where he was and said that he would not answer that question,” Robinson recounted.

“We have concerns surrounding the secrecy of the arrangements with the Israelis and the total lack of information around these cyber security arrangements,” said the former junior minister for science and technology.

He said the concerns are based on a number things, including a catalogue of the “history of corruption” that has followed Israeli companies that have provided cyber security tools to countries across the world and the misuse of those tools to spy on opponents, the media and human rights activists.

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