According to the Wall Street Journal, a joint venture between mobile phone companies Nokia and Siemens built a "monitoring centre" within the Iranian government’s telecom monopoly enabling authorities to inspect and intercept Web traffic.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article reported that Nokia-Siemens' system uses "deep packet inspection" technology, which allows cyberpolice to open packets of information sent online to censor or supervise Web users. The respected US broadsheet quoted a Nokia-Siemens spokesman as confirming that the company provided this technology, adding that "if you sell networks, you also, intrinsically, sell the capability to intercept any communication that runs over them".
The Wall Street Journal article was cited by dozens of US media outlets, and has begun making waves on social networking websites. Several groups on Facebook have begun calling for a Nokia and Siemens product boycott.
FRANCE 24 contacted Ben Roome, the spokesperson of the joint venture also reached by WSJ. He categorically denies that his company provided Iran with any type of technology enabling authorities to intercept or filter Internet content. According to Roome, Nokia-Siemens sold Iran a system which solely provides the capability to conduct voice monitoring of local calls on its fixed and mobile network. However, Roome remained evasive when asked whether Nokia's technology enabled Iran to intercept and block SMS messages.
The sale of a phone-tapping technology to Iran by Nokia and Siemens is therefore confirmed. It doesn't seem, however, that the European companies participated in the creation of an internet surveillance centre, as the WSJ seems to imply.
"Whether it's phone or Internet tapping, the ethical problem remains"
Andres Roman is a Chilean political science fellow at the London School of Economics. He created a Facebook group calling for the boycott of all Nokia-Siemens products.
I didn't read about the sale in the Wall Street Journal, I heard about it on the BBC. It makes no difference whether Nokia-Siemens technology is helping Iran tap phones or the Internet, the ethical problem is the same. I understand selling phone interception capability to democratic countries, where there are checks and balances. But in a country like Iran, China or Burma, the law does not protect citizen's private life."