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[liberationtech] Belarus/Ericsson/GSM

Luke Allnutt AllnuttL at
Fri Jan 14 05:41:23 PST 2011

Dear All,

I'm a journalist from RFE/RL working on a story about the recent crackdown 
in Belarus. Our Belarus Service is reporting that hundreds of cell phone 
owners are being summoned for interrogation by police and the KGB because, 
on December 19, they were using their phones at the site of the 
antigovernment protest. 

We are trying to ascertain whether the phone operators were asked to 
supply the information about their customers' phone calls or whether the 
KGB was able to track these calls on their own. Both scenarios seem 

If anyone has any insight into what might have happened here and how easy 
it would be for the KGB to get that location data on their own, it would 
be much appreciated.

My second question, if I may, would be about Ericsson, who have supplied 
Belarus operators with GSM equipment. I spoke via email to Ericsson, and 
from what I can make out, the GSM equipment they've supplied Belarus with 
is pretty standard and contains capabilities for "lawful intercept," which 
they say is entirely in keeping with worldwide standards and norms.

I've spoken to a few experts to try to ascertain whether Ericsson is doing 
anything inappropriate here. Should they, for instance, sell different 
equipment to countries with less-than-democratic records? How difficult 
would it be for Ericsson to reengineer their systems so lawful intercept 
capabilities were taken out? And how difficult would it be to put those 
things back in? 

I apologize if these questions seem overly simplistic or off-the-mark. I 
have only a fairly limited understanding of the engineering questions; 
thus why I'm turning to you people. 

If anyone would have the time to answer my questions on list or off list, 
I would be hugely grateful. Many thanks for your time.

Best Wishes,

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