Nokia Software: Streamlining Bahrain’s Torture of Rights Activists

Connecting People -- To Car Batteries?

by Jason Ditz, August 23, 2011

Reports from Bloomberg today detail a human rights activist in Bahrain being beaten with a rubber hose for text messages sent from his phone. This is the sort of thing which is all too common in Bahrain, particularly since the massive crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators earlier this year.

But governments aren’t really clever enough to come up with streamlined snooping technology on their own and when the activist was finally released his first question was “how did they know?”

The answer is Nokia, or more specifically their subsidiary Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN), which created the suite of spying software and provided it to the torture-minded Bahraini government. NSN confirmed that they not only sold the software to them, but have a contract to maintain it.

Such surveillance systems are extremely common, partcularly in repressive nations like Bahrain, and the reports are quick to point out that neither the US nor EU make it illegal to sell software that is going to be used by a government to oppress its population. This is perhaps worth noting, but is likely very much beside the point as Bahrain continues to round up dissidents with Nokia’s software, subjecting them to torture because the text messages they sent weren’t so secret.

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