Obama urged to challenge Ethiopia over use of spyware

US President Barack Obama, currently on a tour of African states, has been urged to press the Ethiopian government over its use of advanced malware to spy on government critics.

Ethiopia is categorised as a repressive regime by Human Rights Watch for curtailing free speech, use of excessive force and torture and repressive legislation designed to silence opposition groups.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed a lawsuit in the US federal court in Washington, DC, alleging that the government of Ethiopia used surveillance malware and wiretapping to invade the privacy of a US citizen, a former Ethiopian citizen who was granted asylum over 20 years ago.

The EFF filed the lawsuit on behalf of the US citizen who is known simply as Kidane to protect his identity. It claims that the Ethiopian government installed malware on Kidane's computer and monitored his internet activities and Skype calls for at least six months in 2012/2013.

It claims that traces of FinSpy surveillance software were discovered, pointing to the IP addresses of servers in Ethiopia. Ethiopia has also been revealed to be a customer of the Hacking Team, following the publication of millions of emails and other documents by a hacker known as PhineasFisher.

Although the Ethiopian government is a sovereign nation, the suit contends that it is subject to US anti-wiretapping laws because it acted on American soil against a US citizen.