A California-based company helped Egypt surreptitiously inspect internet messaging by protesters since the beginning of the uprising in Cairo and other cities, according to an advocacy group.
“Free Press” says the firm, located in Sunnyvale, Ca., provided Telecom Egypt with the technology enabling government security forces to “peek in” on internet traffic from browsers, emails, Twitter and Facebook posts.
Network providers have used so-called “deep packet inspection” (DPI) software for years in order to examine the bits of digital information, called packets, that make up an email or other transmission, in order to find spam, computer viruses, and other malicious code on their systems.
“Anything that comes through (an Internet protocol network), we can record. We can reconstruct all of their e-mails along with attachments, see what web pages they clicked on, we can reconstruct their [Voice Over Internet Protocol] calls," the Vice President of Marketing for the company, Steve Bannerman, told Wired Magazine.
Free Press claims the Egyptian government's alleged use of such technology to read messages and even track cellphone users via GPS coordinates and SMS messaging was an infraction of the protesters' human rights.
“What we are seeing in Egypt is a frightening example of how the power of technology can be abused,” Free Press Campaign Director Timothy Karr said.
“Commercial operators trafficking in Deep Packet Inspection technology to violate Internet users’ privacy is bad enough; in government hands, that same invasion of privacy can quickly lead to stark human rights violations,” Karr said, and demanded that “companies that profit from sales of this technology … be held to a higher standard.”
Kerr warned that such commercial software systems are “being used by regimes in Iran, China, Burma and others for far more suspicious, and possibly brutal, purposes.”
Free Press describes itself as a "nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to reform the media."