Harsh regimes use US-made surveillance, censorship technologies

Canadian human rights group finds countries including Bahrain use Blue Coat devices to track and censor

Topics: Surveillance, Censorship, Human Rights, blue coat, Bahrain, Syria, citizen lab, ,

Some of the world’s most repressive regimes employ U.S.-made surveillance and censorship technology. Citizen Lab Internet research group, based at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, discovered that that governments around the world use systems from made by Blue Coat Systems of Sunnyvale, California.

As the New York Times reported, Citizen Lab “determined that Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Republic employed a Blue Coat system that could be used for digital censorship. The group also determined that Bahrain, China, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey and Venezuela used equipment that could be used for surveillance and tracking.”

“We hope Blue Coat will take this as an opportunity to explain their due diligence process to ensure that their devices are not used in ways that violate human rights,” a statement from Citizen Lab noted. The Canadian human rights group used computer servers to scan for the distinctive signature of Blue Coat systems in global networks.



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In 2011, the U.S. Department of Commerce investigated Blue Coat when it was found that Syria’s Assad regime was using the California company’s technologies to monitor dissidents. Since Syria is on the U.S. embargo list, technology is restricted from export. Blue Coat acknowledged that Syrian authorities were in possession of their surveillance devices, but claimed that they were sent without the company’s knowledge via a distributor in Dubai.

While the U.S. cannot block exports to countries outside the sanction lists, Citizen Lab hopes their findings will prompt a closer look at the proliferation of surveillance and censorship technologies.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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