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Nokia Siemens clamps down on Iran snoop claims

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Nokia Siemens Networks has denied it provided Iran with any special snooping equipment or capabilities when it helped install mobile networks in the country.

But the company concedes it did provide lawful intercept capabilities - as it does in the UK, US and most of the rest of the world. In fact this "Lawful Intercept" is defined by standards from the European Telecommunications Standards Institute.

The denial was sparked by a story in the Wall Street Journal which claimed Iranian authorities were using "deep packet inspection, which enables authorities to not only block communication but to monitor it to gather information about individuals, as well as alter it for disinformation purposes". The paper said it was unsure whether Nokia Siemens kit was used for this purpose.

However, Nokia Siemens spokesman Ben Roome insisted the firm only provided equipment to allow authorities to listen in on local mobile and landline calls.

He said the company operated in accordance with its own code of conduct as well as with UN and EU export laws.

Reacting to comments on his blog questioning whether the company should operate in Iran at all Roome said: "We did have a choice as to whether we bring the Iranian people this connectivity, in the knowledge that telecoms networks have the ability to monitor voice calls as they do all over the world, and believe there is a net benefit to the people of Iran."

Mainstream coverage of the unrest in Iran has been unusual for the focus on the role of technology in fuelling anti-government protests. Twitter has run plaudits for its apparent role in spreading dissent, while Facebook and Google have both leapt onto the bandwagon by launching Farsi language features. In Google's case, at least, the apparent lining up with the Iranian dissenters seems slightly at odds with its stance in China.

There are some interesting blogs on the limited role of social media in events in Iran here and here. ®

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