Web

How Is Iran Monitoring Its Citizens?

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Most of the news of demonstrations in Iran in the wake of the elections has come from citizen journalists, using blogs, Twitter, and uploading video shot on mobile phones. But the government has been logging much, if not all, of that, and the details of just how are beginning to emerge.

The technology to monitor, read, and control phone calls came from Nokia Siemens Networks, which sold a product called Monitoring Center to the Iran Telecom last year, according to the Wall Street Journal. It can monitor voice calls, text messaging, instant messages, and web traffic, and even see what data is being sent, although Nokia Siemens insisted to the BBC that only local calls and landlines and mobiles are being checked, and insisted it had not supplied the country with deep packet inspection capabilities.

A spokesman described it as "a standard architecture that the world’s governments use for lawful intercept," and noted something we should all be aware of:

"Western governments, including the UK, don’t allow you to build networks without having this functionality."

The spokesman also claimed that the installation of Monitoring Center held a net benefit for Iranians:

"The amount of information that is coming out of Iran from ordinary users because they have connectivity that they would not have had before is of a net benefit to them."

"I don’t think Iran would have expanded its mobile network and its connectivity to its citizens if it had not had this capability."

The day after the presidential elections, data traffic out of Iran ground to a halt, according to security company Arbor Networks, and the speculation is that this was due to Iran Telecom installing filters and monitors. The flow has increased since then.

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