Monday, June 29, 2009

Filtering the Revolution

In the aftermath of the election in Iran, Twitter emerged as the most powerful way for Iranians to disseminate information and organize protests. The Iranian government has been censoring the Internet for years, but of course -- as the Cute Cat Theory explains -- firewalls don't stop anybody for long.

But don't expect our own government to understand technology, firewalls, or cute cats. Sens. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., plan to introduce a bill that would bar foreign companies that sell technology to Iran from receiving federal contracts.

My first thought -- have these senators heard of China? China's net censorship is well documented. American companies like Cisco, Microsoft, Google and Yahoo have all been complicit in China's human rights abuses. Heck, you might even say they were enthusiastic.

But why do these companies make technologies with wiretapping features built in anyway? Our lawmakers should know the answer to this simple question. In the EU and the US, telecommunications networks are legally required to have those capabilities for Lawful Intercept. Unfortunately, the exact same network hardware that is sold over here is also sold over there.

This fact shouldn't give the above mentioned companies a free pass for supporting oppressive regimes. However, our own government has to see the bigger picture. We want our law enforcement agencies to be able to wiretap (with a court order -- wink wink), but these Lawful Intercept requirements have consequences far outside our own borders.

Oh, and this leads me to my second thought -- why the hell aren't we punishing the companies who enabled warrantless wiretapping within the US? Schumer and Graham ought to work on that one for a while.

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