When good companies go bad – How Nokia Siemens helped Iran monitor its citizens

Last week my friend Diederik wrote a blog titled “Twittering to End Dictatorship: Ensuring the Future of Web-based Social Movements” in which he expressed his concern that (Western) corporations might facilitate oppressive regimes in wiretapping and spying on their citizens.

Now it appears that his concerns have turned out to be true. As he points on more recently on his blog:

  • The Wall Street Journal reports that Nokia and Siemens have supplied Iran with deep-inspection technologies to develop “one of the world’s most sophisticated mechanisms for controlling and censoring the Internet, allowing it to examine the content of individual online communications on a massive scale”. The  Washington Post also reported this.
  • Siemens has not just sold the “Intelligence Platform” to Iran, but to a total of 60 countries. Siemens calls it “lawful interception”, but in countries with oppressive regimes everything that the government does is lawful.
  • The New York Times reports that China is requiring Internet censor software to be installed on all computers starting from July 1st.

Of course, being Nordic, the Nokia Siemens joint venture which developed and sold the monitoring centre to Iran has a strict code of ethics on their website that addresses issues of human rights, censorship and torture. In theory this should have guided their choice of selling equipment to Iran – obviously it has not.

So Diederik and his friends have started a petition to enable people voice their concern over the failure of Nokia Seimens to adhere to their own code of conduct by selling advanced technology to help the government of Iran to control its citizens. I hope it takes off…

3 thoughts on “When good companies go bad – How Nokia Siemens helped Iran monitor its citizens

  1. Jeremy Vernon

    I think the spirit of the petition laudable but I think the WaPo's take and others' overly simplistic and under-informed (especially the Washington Post) with regards to the technology in question and its conventional usage.Nokia (which is Finnish) sold what is industry standard deep-packet-inspection facilities for use on Iranian networks by the government. This is hardly abnormal – in fact it is the norm, even in countries that do not censor the internet or run oppressive regimes.Iran has problems with stalking, murder, harassment, identity theft and child-pornography the same as any other nation. This is what DPI and related technology is designed to address, selling it to Iran for those purposes is entirely legitimate. Siemens calls it lawful intervention because it IS lawful interception – this kind of aparatus is sinqua-non in the United States, the UK and elsewhere – let alone in despotist countries. I would be more disturbed if Nokia attempted to dictate to its state client under what terms they were allowed to use the software – which is, in effect, the goal of the petition. This is the same issue as with Google and China etc.Have a look at the open net intiative – http://www.opennet.net/ for a rigorous and rational analysis of these practices.Iran is the problem – not Nokia or Siemens or Cisco or any of the Israeli companies that supply surveillance equipment to most of central asia.

  2. Jacques Drolet

    Jeremy has a point. Nevertheless, the message passed by the petition in entirely valid since it is critical to look at both sides of a tool in order to be able to guide it toward serving mankind (which is not always clear and nicely obvious) and in order to be able to take it away from the abusive uses driven by pain or power.

  3. Jeremy Vernon

    Upon reflection, here are some other cases:Why not stop SAP or IBM from selling Costa Rica or Surinam millions of dollars in banking software it knows full-well it's using to manage illegal off-shore banks?How about logistics software to Bolivia for false-flag shipping management? Drug cartel management? These organizations aren't using GNU, they're buying.What about the accountancy apps Fashion-Textile corporations and their partner governments use to exploit workers the world over?Microsoft sells operating systems to every corrupt regime to ever used a computer, including those who perpetrate crimes against humanity.SAP helped develop the CPOF – used to kill Iraqis…Also, some of the laws considered censorship here (banning porn/Britney Spears) are VERY popular in Iran and elsewhere. She DPI is being used to enforce a social ideal that is just different from ours.

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