Secure Computing - Use of Company Products For Governmental Censorship

Use of Company Products For Governmental Censorship

The OpenNet Initiative studied filtering software used by governments to block access by their citizens and found Secure Computing's SmartFilter program heavily used by both the Iranian and Saudi governments. According to Secure Computing, any use of its software in Iran is without its consent—U.S. sanctions prohibit American companies from any dealings with Iran—and in 2005 the company said it is actively working to stop its illegal use.

In response to the company, Jonathan Zittrain, co-director of Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, stated, "he fact remains that the software has been in use for an extended period of time there. And we've seen Secure Computing software turn up in more than just Iran. We've seen it in Saudi Arabia as well."

In 2001 The New York Times reported that Secure Computing was one of ten companies competing for the Saudi government's contract for software to block its citizens access to websites it deemed offensive. The company already had a deal with the Saudis that was due to expire in 2003. In its defense, Secure Computing has always stated that it can not control how customers use a product once it has been sold. According to the OpenNet Initiative's 2007 report, the Saudi government's censorship "most extensively covers religious and social content, though sites relating to opposition groups and regional political and human rights issues are also targeted."

The governments of the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Sudan, and Tunisia also actively use SmartFilter. The Tunisian government even goes as far as to redirect blocked pages to a fake 'Error 404' page, to hide the fact that blocking software is being used.

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