Monday, June 22, 2009

Hanging on the telephone #IranElection

Writing on the BBC's Technology pages, Rory Cellan-Jones reports that,

Nokia Siemens Network has confirmed it supplied Iran with the technology needed to monitor, control, and read communications.

It told the BBC that it sold a product called the Monitoring Centre to Iran Telecom in the second half of 2008.

This monitoring and control systemis not unusual in itself. Asked about it, a Nokia Siemens spokesman
described the system as "a standard architecture that the world's governments use for lawful intercept".

He added: "Western governments, including the UK, don't allow you to build networks without having this functionality."

Two things are of concern here. Firstly, that this phone-tapping technology is so widely deployed by governments who seem to lose laptops and the data on them at the rate that banks lose credibility and money. Is it in use here in Ireland? If Cowen and Co. ever decided on a repeat of the 1983 phone tapping that Haughey et al engaged in, would we know about it?

Secondly, and surely of far greater concern, is that Nokia Siemens sold this equipment to Iran "in the second half of 2008". Is it just too much to expect that a publicly listed company (maximize-shareholder-value-maximize-shareholder-value) might exercise some sort of ethical foresight? Well, the company say that they don't sell the monitoring system to China or Burma. Why is that? Are you less dead if an Iranian soldier shoots you than if it's a Burmese soldier?

So when you watch the video of blood streaming from the head of a young woman who has been gunned down on the streets of Tehran remind yourself that you're only seeing it because someone managed to circumvent the tools that Nokia Siemens put into the hands of the Iranian government less than a year ago. The problem is that the information may well be coming out of Iran via networks that the likes of Nokia Siemens supplied. If that's the case then it just reinforces the need to preserve anonymous web access.

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