Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Did US Companies Help Egypt Internet Crackdown?

Posted by Tom Foremski - January 28, 2011

Free Press, the non-partisan lobbying organization, reports that US companies are involved in providing technology that helps the Egyptian government monitor protestors on the Internet and mobile phones.

Free Press issued a statement that claims:

Boeing-owned, California-based company Narus sold Telecom Egypt, the state-run Internet service provider, "real-time traffic intelligence" equipment, more commonly known as Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology. DPI is content-filtering technology that allows network managers to inspect, track and target content from Internet users and mobile phones as it passes through routers on the Web.

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Narus Vice President of Marketing Steve Bannerman said to Wired in 2006: "Anything that comes through (an internet protocol network), we can record. We can reconstruct all of their e-mails along with attachments, see what web pages they clicked on, we can reconstruct their [voice over internet protocol] calls."

Free Press is calling on Congress to take action on DPI.

The harm to democracy and the power to control the Internet are so disturbing that the threshold for the global trafficking in DPI must be set very high. That's why, before DPI becomes more widely used around the world and at home, Congress must establish legitimate standards for preventing the use of such control and surveillance technologies as means to violate human rights.

Congress would be opening a Pandora's Box in terms of looking at the US companies that provide equipment to foreign governments that could be used against protestors. Some of the largest US tech companies are suppliers to governments in China, Iran, Burma and other countries that have been accused of human rights violations.

But where do you draw the line? DPI has many uses, and not all of them are nefarious. It would be near impossible to control the export of network hardware and software based on its possible use by foreign governments.

However, a public shaming of US companies might have an impact and it would certainly be faster than waiting for Congress to act.

You can support Free Press and its call on Congress to investigate the use and sale of DPI technology by American companies by signing your name here.


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