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Exporting Technology in the Middle East: Western Credibility in the Online World

BY Antonella Napolitano | Wednesday, September 7 2011

At Nordic Techpolitics MEP (and PdF friend) Marietje Schaake exposed one of the darkest side of the Internet: Western countries are exporting technology in Middle East countries fighting for independence from authoritarian governments, but not always to help activists.
Surveillance tools developed by European countries are in fact being used by regimes to monitor online communications of citizens to track political dissidents and human-rights activists.

The issue is explored also by Evgeny Morozov on the New York Times:

Libya is only the latest place where Western surveillance technology has turned up. Human rights activists arrested and later released in Bahrain report being presented with transcripts of their own text messages — a capacity their government acquired through equipment from Siemens, the German industrial giant, and maintained by Nokia Siemens Networks, based in Finland, and Trovicor, another German company.
Earlier this year, after storming the secret police headquarters, Egyptian activists discovered that the Mubarak government had been using a trial version of a tool — developed by Britain’s Gamma International — that allowed them to eavesdrop on Skype conversations, widely believed to be safe from wiretapping.

And it’s not just off-the-shelf technology; some Western companies supply dictators with customized solutions to block offensive Web sites.

Politics has the duty to ensure transparency and accountability by increasing the knowledge of the policymakers on the matter, in order to work on policy decisions, says Schaake in this interview at Bloomberg.

The Dutch MEP, who has been working on human rights and freedom of speech since she came into office, is meeting representatives of the tech companies involved to discuss human rights and CSR.