The tech-savviness of the Iranian people served them well during the protests against corruption in the recent election, and now it’s making them turn against cell-phone giant Nokia–a government colluder in their eyes.
According to information obtained by The Guardian newspaper, the sales of Nokia handsets in the country have fallen by up to 50%. And it’s all because Nokia, in partnership with Siemens as Nokia Siemens Networks, sold the Iranian government a cell-phone network monitoring system when it worked to expand the country’s cell-phone system last year. The partnership has defended the action by saying it’s a standard system that’s in place in “dozens of countries” but that has not dulled Iranian anger, and they’re voting–untampered–with their wallets.
The situation’s not helped by the fact that some released dissidents are saying they were held because of their SMS and phone archives–which can only have been provided by the cell-phone operator TCI, possibly aided by NSN’s technology. In response to this, people are also beginning to avoid sending SMSs.
The news comes just days after BlackBerry maker RIM and UAE cell-phone network Etisalat faced accusations that a recent handset firmware update was being used to log phone, text, and email traffic sent from BlackBerrys in that country. The firmware update, which supposedly provided a “network upgrade” raised suspicion when user’s batteries began to be drained really fast. Hackers dissected the phone’s new firmware and discovered the code was calling home to a central server on a regular basis with personal information.
Cell-phone technology, it seems, is acting as a double-edged sword for the modern citizen, depending on the unsavoriness of national regimes and complicity from manufacturers. And before you get comfy thinking “Maybe so, but that’s all happening far away,” then just remember: The extent of the U.S. government’s monitoring of its population is only now being properly uncovered.