A company whose Internet-filtering servers were recently found to have been used by Syria’s regime for censorship is facing a new research report that Myanmar, too, uses its technology—and that the Syrian use is wider than acknowledged.
The findings released today by the Citizen Lab, an Internet research center at the University of Toronto, are the latest evidence that commercial technology from the West—in this case from Blue Coat of Sunnyvale, California—is often used by repressive regimes, says Ron Deibert, the lab’s director, who posted the findings today in a blog.
“Prior research by our group, and others like it, have highlighted the growing market for censorship, surveillance, and even offensive computer network attack products and services,” Deibert says. “It is distressing that many, but not all, of the companies that sell this technology are based in liberal democratic regimes.”
A spokesman for Blue Coat said he hadn’t seen the report and pointed to the company’s October statement about the Syrian matter. The company said in the statement that its “appliances apparently were transferred illegally to Syria.”
The statement adds: “Blue Coat is mindful of the violence in Syria and is saddened by the human suffering and loss of human life that may be the result of actions by a repressive regime. We don’t want our products to be used by the government of Syria or any other country embargoed by the United States. If our review of the facts about this diversion presents solutions that enable us to better protect against future illegal and unwanted diversion of our products, we intend to take steps to implement them.”
Both Syria and Myanmar are known for serious human-rights violations and are subject to U.S. trade embargoes. In Syria, the United Nations says that the government of President Bashar al-Assad has killed more than 3,500 people over the course of the citizen uprising that has gone on for eight months. Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Blue Coat’s technology was used to help the government block or log Syrians’ attempts to connect to facebook.com/syrian.revolution and other sites related to protests against the government.