Monday, April 13, 2009

European and US telecoms have trouble monitoring governments for abuse of their wireless services (esp. Iran)


Eli Lake has a disturbing story on the front page of the April 13 Washington Times that implicates European and possibly American telecom companies for selling services that foreign governments can jerryrig to spy on dissidents.

The print version this morning was called “Europe’s telecoms aid with spy tech; Dissidents seen as targets”. The online version later in the day was similar but had a more specific title, “Fed contractor, cell phone maker sold siy system to Iran”, link here.

One major problem is that equipment “without a land line switch” would be very difficult for international agencies or manufacturers to monitor. Telecom companies are in a position when monitoring possible hostile foreign governments similar to that with individual web users and terror cells; they cannot afford to “proactively” eliminate unacceptable uses and must respond to complaints. This is just part of the “mashup” that comes with asymmetry, as described so well in Joshua Cooper Ramo’s recent book “The Age of the Unthinkable”.

Perhaps Iran really will misuse these services and live up to the film "Persepolis".

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