Thursday, December 29, 2011

How US Companies Help Set Up Repressive Regimes

Here is a bit from a post by Cory Doctorow on the BoingBoing blog:
Two thirds of the way through the talk, they broaden the context to talk about the role of American companies in the war waged against privacy and free speech -- SmartFilter (now an Intel subsidiary, and a company that has a long history of censoring Boing Boing) is providing support for Iran's censorship efforts, for example. They talked about how Blue Coat and Cisco produce tools that aren't just used to censor, but to spy (all censorware also acts as surveillance technology) and how the spying directly leads to murder and rape and torture.

Then, they talked about the relationship between corporate networks and human rights abuses. Iran, China, and Syria, they say, lack the resources to run their own censorship and surveillance R&D projects, and on their own, they don't present enough of a market to prompt Cisco to spend millions to develop such a thing. But when a big company like Boeing decides to pay Cisco millions and millions of dollars to develop censorware to help it spy on its employees, the world's repressive governments get their R&D subsidized, and Cisco gets a product it can sell to them.

They concluded by talking about how Western governments' insistence on "lawful interception" back-doors in network equipment means that all the off-the-shelf network gear is readymade for spying, so, again, the Syrian secret police and the Iranian telcoms spies don't need to order custom technology that lets them spy on their people, because an American law, CALEA, made it mandatory that this technology be included in all the gear sold in the USA.
Here is the video of the talk which Doctorow attended given by Tor technologists:

It is depressing that US politicians pass laws that set up the basis for the spyware and then US corporations do the multi-million dollar R&D to develop the spyware that is then deployed by repressive regimes worldwide (plus the US government and big US corporations). We live in a "big brother" world. Orwell thought he was writing a cautionary tale with his book Nineteen Eighty-Four, but he was documenting the hellish future we now all live in.

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