Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2001/10/22/nortel_helping_china_to_overhaul/

Nortel helping China to overhaul state surveillance architecture

Human rights activists cry foul

By John Leyden

Posted in Security, 22nd October 2001 17:09 GMT

Human rights activists have launched an attack on Nortel Networks, accusing it of contributing to human rights violations in China by helping the country overhaul its ageing surveillance technologies.

The "Great Firewall of China", which controls content entering the country, is failing, largely due to the increased volume of Internet traffic in China, so the Chinese are looking to build a more sophisticated system involving content filtration, and the monitoring of individual users.

That's one of the main conclusion in a report by The International Centre of Human Rights & Democratic Development (ICHRDD) which states: "Old style censorship is being replaced with a massive, ubiquitous architecture of surveillance: the Golden Shield."

"Ultimately the aim is to integrate a gigantic online database with an all-encompassing surveillance network - incorporating speech and face recognition, closed-circuit television, smart cards, credit records, and Internet surveillance technologies," it adds.

Many other Western firms are also involved in the development of China's state security apparatus but Nortel, which like the human rights group, is based in Canada, has come in for particular criticism in ICHRDD's report. Among the Nortel projects singled out for criticism are:



Nortel is no stranger to controversy with its Personal Internet technology, which was criticised on its announcement in February by consumers activists and anti-junk mail campaigners, and has rejected ICHRDD criticism.

"Nortel Networks categorically rejects in the strongest possible terms the notion that we are collaborating with any government to repress the human rights or democracy of its citizens," a statement by Nortel said.

"Nortel Networks is a longstanding supplier of advanced telecommunications products and technology in China where we have a broad range of customers. Nortel Networks sells the same range of products and solutions in China as we do elsewhere."

This response cut little ice with ICHRDD which believes Nortel's technology will be used to clamp down on political dissent.

On September 28, four Chinese citizens were tried for subversion for participating in an on-line pro democracy forum. The four are but the most recent of several arrests in recent years for Internet-related crimes.

Pacific rim leaders are expected to announce an "anti-terrorism" pact at the APEC summit this week which human rights advocates fear could be used to excuse increased crackdowns on Internet privacy and human rights, particularly in authoritarian states such as China. ®

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External Links

Nortel technology threatens human rights in China (press release by ICHRDD)
China's Golden Shield: Corporations and the Developement of Surveillance Technology in the People's Republic of China (report by ICHRDD)