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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Why Companies Must Consider Human Rights

The recent uprisings by the Iranian people, and the subsequent brutal treatment by their government, is highlighting the necessity of business taking human rights into consideration before doing business with a government.

The Iranian government bought technology that is enabling them to monitor phone calls and internet traffic from Nokia Siemens Network, a joint venture of German based Siemens, and Finnish based Nokia Corp. Until now, the Iranian government has not fully used its capability to monitor its citizens until the recent uprising, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday.

"We didn't know they could do this much," said a network engineer in Tehran. "Now we know they have powerful things that allow them to do very complex tracking on the network."

Ben Roome, spokesperson for the joint venture, said, “If you sell networks, you also, intrinsically, sell the capability to intercept any communication that runs over them.”

When asked about selling equipment that helps the Iranian government spy on its people, Roome said Nokia Siemens “does have a choice about whether to do business in any country.” However, he said the company believes in “believe providing people, wherever they are, with the ability to communicate.”

According to the WSJ, the monitoring equipment sold to Iran is described in a company brochure as allowing “the monitoring and interception of all types of voice and data communication on all networks.” Nokia Siemens sold the company to Perusa Partners Fund 1 LP, a German-based company.

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