Apr 25 2012

How Tech Companies Work with Repressive Regimes

Dubbed SOPA 2.0 by its detractors, The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act is scheduled to be discussed this week in the House of Representatives. If passed, the law would authorize military agencies to directly collect the internet records of American citizens and allows corporations to share personal communications, like emails, with the government under the aegis of “cybersecurity.” The legislation has been thrashed by critics for its similarity to the failed Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, which died in January after a massive public outcry and opposition from internet giants such as Google and Wikipedia.

The technology and internet freedom watchdog group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or EFF, also opposes CISPA, saying it allows information to be collected and given to the National Security Agency without defining what constitutes a cyber security risk. The EFF has been tracking the erosion of personal privacy as governments and corporations are increasingly able to use various technologies to spy on their citizenry worldwide. The EFF recently released a white paper entitled “Human Rights and Technology Sales: How Corporations can Avoid Assisting Repressive Regimes.” The report names companies, including Cisco and the California based Blue Coat Systems Inc., that have sold equipment and technology to regimes in China, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Yemen to enable these governments to spy on suspected dissidents and to censor the internet, or deny their populations access to it.

The authors of the report argue that corporations have a responsibility not to assist repressive regimes committing human rights abuses. They suggest a two pronged approach, combining an enhanced transparency of corporate dealings with foreign countries with the implementation of a “know your customer” policy anticipating how a customer will use a technology, and if such use constitutes an abuse of human rights.

GUEST: Trevor Timm, co-author of EFF’s White Paper, “Human Rights and Technology Sales: How Corporations can Avoid Assisting Repressive Regimes.”

Visit www.eff.org and cyberspying.eff.org for more information.

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