Meet more western companies that arm dictators and torturers with network spyware

Last week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation profiled FinFisher and Amesys, two of the companies that had been caught selling network spying tools to despotic regimes around the world, including Hosni Mubarak's Egypt and Muammar Qaddafi's Libya. This week, EFF continues the series with profiles of Italy's Area SpA (which sells electronic tracking software to Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria) and Germany's Trovicor (which sells spyware to a dozen countries in the Middle East and North Africa).

In 2011, at the same time that news of Syria’s violent crackdown on democratic protests graced the pages of the world’s newspapers, an Italian company called Area SpA was busy helping the Syrian’s dictator Bashar al-Assad electronically track the dissidents his army was firing upon in the streets. Area SpA had begun installing “monitoring centers” that would give the Syrian government the ability “to intercept, scan and catalog virtually every e-mail that flows through the country” as well as “follow targets on flat-screen workstations that display communications and Web use in near-real time alongside graphics that map citizens’ networks of electronic contacts.”

Worse, as the violence in Syria escalated in mid-2011, “Area employees [were] flown into Damascus in shifts” in the government’s push to finish the project, according to a report from Bloomberg News.

Spy Tech Companies & Their Authoritarian Customers, Part II: Trovicor and Area SpA

16

  1. “companies that had been caught selling network spying tools to despotic regimes around the world”

    That’s a bit dramatic isn’t it? They sell a product to their customers. It is none of their business what their customers do with said product.

    At the end of the day, they have to eat too.

    1.  I hope you’re being ironic here.  

      If you create a tool that’s only useful for harassing citizens en masse, market it to despots, and then sell it to a customer currently engaged in the mass murder of its own citizens, then yes, it *is* their business what their customers do. This isn’t even like arms sales; these companies build features into the systems that are only useful to authoritarians and despots.

      At the end of the day, if the only possible way they can eat is by helping hurt and kill innocents, it’s better for us all if they don’t actually get to.

    2. They sell a product to their customers. It is none of their business what their customers do with said product.

      Thanks for the opinion from the completely amoral perspective. Next!

        1. Anti tends to reply to two types of comments: ones which amuse him and ones which deserve ridicule.

          Which one do you think yours is?

    3. Yeah, there’s people who sell explosives, detonators, automatic weapons and such. 

      It’s not the dealer’s business if the buyer has a clearly expressed intention to kidnap/murder employees/owners or blow up the offices of certain companies providing all kinds of spyware to tyrants. Not at all, dears. Spot the fallacy?It gets an order of magnitude bigger once you realize that they don’t just sell software in boxes. They install hardware/software to specification and provide technical support and training all the way through. Even shady arms’ dealers try to avoid participating in the criminal uses of their wares. These people actually perform demonstrations and can be said to “pull the trigger”.  They are accomplices through and through, if not as guilty as the customers.

    4.  This corporate behaviour is on a par with that of IBM who helped the Nazis set up their system for controlling and schedulling the trains to the concentration camps… they knew what those systems were being used for…

      and the “they have to eat” excuse doesn’t excuse the workers in the chemical works that manufactured the nerve gas used in the concentration camps and also by the guards of same camps…

      Orders are orders was not accepted as an excuse by the Nuremburg War Crimes Trials…

      The “if we didn’t sell it to them then somebody else will” excuse doesn’t hold water either…

      and hopefully, one day there will be reckoning where the owners, CEOs and other
      high ups in these corporations also have to face the music for their crimes against humanity, which is what this network spyware stuff amounts to…

      If you work for one of these companies or are a shareholder, then take a good look at yourself in the mirror and consider the stain on your soul for aiding these crimes…

    1. Correct, because public outcries over the actions of companies has never in the history of the universe brought about any social good.

      1. Assuming you’re being irono-sarky, I daresay most here would agree that your ‘claim’ is false. If no irony was intended, then we could waste some time on a bit of (yes it has, no it hasn’t)*ry – but let’s not.

        But if we do agree on the possibility of social good by public outcry, then may I confirm that your challenge is that such activity being made illegal is not a way forward?

    2. There are lots of things you can do that are immoral but not illegal. That doesn’t mean you should do them.

      Anyone who makes money from the suffering of innocents deserves suffering themselves. The reason EFF is doing this reporting is because traditional journalists, through laziness or ignorance, are failing to do their job on this topic. How are people supposed to know where to direct their anger if the companies that make these products do so in secret?

      1. There are lots of things you can do that are immoral but not illegal. That doesn’t mean you should do them.

        But the fact that we agree on this doesn’t help. Immorality is of limited utility in an international multifaith multiculture community where the nuances of morality are conditioned by local influences and tradition. All you’ve got is (in this case, international) law.

        Anyone who makes money from the suffering of innocents deserves suffering themselves.

        You may wish it, but that don’t make it so. People get away with this all the time, regardless of how you (or I) might feel about it.

        The reason EFF is doing this reporting is because traditional journalists, through laziness or ignorance, are failing to do their job on this topic.

        Maybe. I’ve long ago given up trying to infer the mental states or motives of others from what they say, but it’s at least possible that all of those traditional journalists are lazy and ignorant, so I guess I’m in no superior position to argue the point.

        How are people supposed to know where to direct their anger if the companies that make these products do so in secret?

        Now that is a great question! I don’t know the answer. And that’s without having to consider the unknown amount of secret shit that even the EFF and its like don’t know about.

Comments are closed.