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[liberationtech] Belarus/Ericsson/GSM

Eric King eric at
Mon Jan 17 07:48:07 PST 2011

Some quick points:

- there is no obligation upon Ericcsson to do this; they chose to bid for the Belarus phone contract, and they chose to include the LI capability

- there are standards from ETSI for 'lawful intercept' that can permit (if I recall correctly) up to 10,000 intercept simultaneously so this is very likely to have happened

- Ericssson and the industry should be held responsible for this and we will be alerting the European Parliament regarding this

- this is similar to what happened with Nokia Siemens and Iran

Eric King
Human Rights and Technology Advisor, Privacy International

On 14 Jan 2011, at 13:41, Luke Allnutt wrote:

> 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 plausible. 
> 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, 
> Luke 
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