THE ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION (EFF) has listed seven Western companies responsible for selling censorship and surveillance technology to the Chinese.
The EFF compiled its "corporations of interest" list from published data on companies that have sold surveillance tools to the Chinese. In strongly worded language, the EFF's Danny O'Brien said the named companies are "fostering repression in China" because the Chinese use the technology for "rampant censorship, invasive data collection and intimidation."
The list is headed by Cisco, which the EFF cited as being heavily involved in building China's Golden Shield Project, that is, the Great Firewall of China. Cisco also ran presentations for Chinese government buyers outlining how its technology could be used to combat religions and other enemies of the Communist state.
Nortel came in second for reported hardware sales to the Great Firewall and developing speech recognition software to monitor telephone conversations. Third was Oracle, which has reported that a third of its business in China is for the government. Motorola was listed fourth for selling small data tag devices to Chinese police.
EMC was fifth by virtue of selling data repositories to public security authorities in China. Sybase was listed in sixth place for selling database programs to Shanghai coppers. Finally in seventh place, L-1 Identity Solutions reportedly sold software to Chinese companies that aids government officials in identifying individuals for purposes of criminal investigations.
O'Brien wrote the article off the back of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's speech last week on US policy in favour of worldwide Internet freedom. The speech included an attempt to address the responsibilities of American technology companies in a global market
Clinton said, "We are urging U.S. media companies to take a proactive role in challenging foreign governments' demands for censorship and surveillance. The private sector has a shared responsibility to help safeguard free expression. And when their business dealings threaten to undermine this freedom, they need to consider what's right, not simply what's a quick profit."
O'Brien invoked a six point solution in the hope of engendering transparent trade with China by American companies. That included clarifying the relationship with the Chinese government and publicly disclosing every aspect of the transaction, from the products and services sold to how US companies can take steps to ensure they're not being used to violate human rights.
The EFF's O'Brien didn't go into detail about how IT companies might control what government customers, including not only the Chinese but also Western government agencies, might do with the equipment and software they buy. Not even the EFF is brave enough to suggest not selling it to them in the first place, apparently. µ