Nokia's spy system tracking Iranaians
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Nokia connects – now in Iran
Iran's government is hot on the heels of its cyber-dissidents, thanks to a spy system it bought last year from Nokia Siemens Networks. Opposition activists are appalled by the deal, but the company sees no reason to worry: "The system was designed to increase people's own safety," explains spokesperson Riitta Mård.
This article was originally published on Fifi in Finnish: Nokia yhdistää Iranissa. This is an abridged English version.
The "Monitoring Center", sold until recently by the Finnish-German joint venture Nokia Siemens Networks, is a platform used by law enforcement to tap phones, read e-mails and surveil electronic data. It also includes data-mining tools that extract useful information from the massive quantities of data collected.
The Washington Times wrote about the deal in April:http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/apr/13/europe39s-telecoms-aid-with-spy-tech/.
Now the government's surveillance tools have become a question of life and death to Iran's opposition organisers. I talked to NSN's spokesperson Riitta Mård about this, but she refused to shed more light on what exactly did her company sell to Irantelecom last year. And how is the system being used now? The company doesn't know.
Nokia Siemens Networks' product line Intelligence Solutions is a tool for the effective regime. Or, for that matter, anyone with access to massive amounts of surveillance data – for instance, information about phone, e-mail or Internet use, border crossings or bank transactions. The package includes two products, Monitoring Center and Intelligence Platform.
The idea is to first build the haystack and then find the needle: the system gathers information and analyses it, looking for clues about suspicious movements of money, data and people. Careful analysis can break the anonymity of dynamic IP addresses and prepaid mobile plans, the company brags.
According to The Washington Times, Iran has purchased at least the Monitoring Center.
According to promotional literature, the Monitoring Center's "modular architecture allows the monitoring and interception of all types of voice and data communication in all networks, i.e. fixed, mobile, Next Generation Network (NGN) and the Internet. The MC's unified view-concept greatly facilitates investigative work and opens completely new and efficient ways to pursue leads."
Data mining has several practical uses. An automated analysis can find signs of money laundering from a database of millions of bank transactions or track the movements of human traffickers. However, mining tools that deal with language and communication raise obvious questions about democratic rights – especially when they're used by a totalitarian government.
Despite this, there are no regulations over the sale of surveillance systems. When the government of Iran asked Nokia Siemens Networks to look for needles in their haystack, the only thing standing on the way of a deal was the company's own sense of responsibility.
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