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The Jeddah World Fest was hosted in the Red Sea city of western Saudi Arabia on Thursday, and the crowds were loving the opportunity to have international icons such as 50 Cent and Janet Jackson perform in their home country. Saudi Arabia has been extremely conservative in their past with entertainment, women’s rights, and other items pertaining to the strict and ancient guidelines of their religion Islam. To have the likes of 50 Cent, and Janet Jackson a female herself, perform a major music event in the country shows how times are a-changing for the middle eastern nation.

Despite the slow turning of the tides in Saudi Arabia, Nicki Minaj, who was also due to perform at the concert pulled out in the name of gay and women’s rights, or lack there of in SA. Many fans were steaming over her decision as the headliner to pull out, and were demanding refunds across social media.

In typical fashion to save face, many Saudi news outlets claimed it was their decision to cancel her performance as it did not align with the nations customs and beliefs. Many organizations such as the Human Rights Foundation have encouraged artists NOT to perform in the Islamic Kingdom.

While Saudi Arabia has pumped a ton of money into providing entertainment and fun for the citizens of the kingdom, they are still a long way away from “catching up with the times”. Nicki Minaj canceling her act is just another example of this, as the kingdom still has many ongoing trials prosecuting women’s rights activists that have spoken out against the country’s policies on women.

Do you agree that Nicki made the right decision to pull out, or that artists such as 50, Chris Brown, and Janet made the right decision to perform? Let us know in the comment section below. 

The rebellious Nicki Minaj finds herself in the middle of a generational, political-social adjustment that is happening in Saudi Arabia, of all places.  She has cancelled a headlining appearance scheduled for July 18th at the Jeddah World Fest.  The festival is part the country’s attempt to find a balance between its strictly conservative, restrictive form of Islam and a pop culture that is quickly passing it by.

In a country where there is high unemployment and rising dissatisfaction among its younger generation, the idea of bringing in entertainment as a distraction seems like an easy fix.  But when the entertainment is a provocateur like Nicki Minaj, they may be getting more than they bargained for.  Her rough language and skin revealing costumes are seen as double trouble for the Kingdom.

Minaj said she cancelled because “she did not want to perform in a country where ‘women have no rights.’ Though she added her intention was not to “disrespect” the Saudi government. To the New York Times she said the withdraw was “to make clear my support for the rights of women, the L.G.B.T.Q. community and freedom of expression.”

The government responded through media outlets that the Kingdom had done the cancelling due to Ms Minaj’s assault on its “customs and values.” The announcement was followed by a twitter flood from both sides of the Saudi argument.  Ticketholders were sad and wanted their money refunded while conservatives saw it as good news and praised Allah.  The balancing act continues. 

Jeff Bezos’ security consultant, Gavin de Becker, thinks that the Saudi Arabian government hacked into Bezos’ cell phone.1  An entire industry exists which could give a government the ability to hack cell phones and collect information. One such company is Israeli spyware firm NSO Group, a billion dollar company that’s been accused of selling to governments that have allegedly misused it’s technology. Now it’s being accused of providing software for Saudi Arabia’s alleged hacking of Bezos’ cell phone in spite of a screening protocol required before they sell software to foreign governments.

NSO Group’s website acknowledges the vetting process while stressing that their company provides software services designed for government opposition to crime and terrorism.

NSO is not alone, there are several other companies putting advanced spying software into the hands of governments around the world including DarkMatter and Black Cube.

An ethical issue to consider regarding the sale of this type of software to governments is the potential corruptibility of otherwise non-corrupt governments. What if a government purchases spyware technology, initially uses it for investigating crime and then new leaders come to power with corrupt intentions?

On the governance page of NSO Group’s website, it says that the company investigates all credible claims of abuse regarding the usage of their products2 implying the company may be willing to retract its services based on the result of such an investigation.

On DarkMatter’s website it is written that society’s usage of digital technology is not catching up with society’s ability to protect itself. In other words, the digital world is a wild west, an untamed frontier. The company’s website claims its purpose is to help governments and businesses protect themselves in the digital world.3 Thus, their stated security purpose would have to include the protection of persons like Jeff Bezos.

Black Cube’s website says that their team is, “A select group of veterans from the Israeli elite intelligence units that specializes in tailored solutions to complex business and litigation challenges.”4 This statement implies a legal dimension to their corporate purpose. Their website also states that they harvest information from the dark web an informal term which references websites that hide the IP addresses of their host servers5 and is commonly associated with illegal behavior.

What does this story tell us about our own lives?

More and more of our lives take place in the digital realm, and because of cell phones, we can take this digital realm with us where ever we like. According to an article from last year by Nielsen Holdings, in the first quarter of 2018 Americans spent about half of their day consuming some form of electronic media.7

And while this new digital way of life brings great intercultural understanding and the freedom to learn from a wide variety of sources, it has brought many security difficulties along with it. Examples: the digitalization of life has made public humiliation and invasion of privacy easier. Just as with previous innovations new dangers have emerged along with the positive benefits.  Fire is warm and romantic in the fireplace, it’s not as good when it’s burning down the house.

Remember, if they can hack Jeff Bezos, someone can come out of the dark web to hack you.  Take care.

Links

  1. https://www.businessinsider.com/jeff-bezos-how-saudi-arabia-could-have-hacked-cell-phone-2019-3/
  2. https://www.nsogroup.com/governance/
  3. https://www.darkmatter.ae/about-us/
  4. https://www.blackcube.com/
  5. https://www.wired.com/2014/11/hacker-lexicon-whats-dark-web/
  6. https://us.norton.com/internetsecurity-how-to-how-to-keep-your-personal-information-safe-on-social-media.html
  7. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentID=4552&ContentTypeID=1
  8. https://www.bloomberg.com/quicktake/cyberbullying
  9. https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2018/time-flies-us-adults-now-spend-nearly-half-a-day-interacting-with-media.print.html