July 18, 2005

Government Commission Hearings On US Company's Censorship Collaboration?

The news article U.S. Tech Firms Help Governments Censor Internet summarizes recent events regarding complicity of US companies with totalitarian regimes. The most explosive aspect is potential violation of US laws by Secure Computing, given that their censorware software "SmartFilter" is being used by the government of Iran - while allegedly without the company's knowledge, the implications remain troubling. Much attention is devoted to the China controversies of Cisco and Microsoft.

Notable quote: "D'Amato said the [U.S-China Economic and Security Review] commission, which reports to Congress, hopes to put pressure on these companies by bringing them in for hearings, soon. "I'm not so sure they'll come," he said. "They're running for cover."

Now, some tantalizing question are: What specific US laws might Secure Computing be violating, which specific government office is charged with enforcing them, and who might have the power to issue a nice juicy subpoena to extract information rather than PR flackery?

So much opportunity, and I have so little power ... :-(

[Update - excellent material in a comment below]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on July 18, 2005 07:31 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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You would need to see if the software in question requires export controls. Either way, I believe the Department of Commerce is going to be your best bet.

The department of commerce has a department called the Bureau of Industry and Security. There's a great deal of information on how one exports -some- kinds of software.

Specific documents that the BIS enforces are here:

If they don't fit into one of the BIS enforced categories, go back through department of commerce looking for trade regulations regarding Iran. I believe they would be the proper Bureau to enforce unlawful trade.

I've done this work for my employer, so I know just enough to cause trouble. IANAL, but the regulations are legible on the fourth or fifth read-through.

Posted by: michael at July 20, 2005 02:39 PM