On Wednesday the European parliament reprimanded multinational companies who had offered Iranian officials equipment needed for censorship and eavesdropping. The companies had promoted the persecution and arrest of dissidents, the Parliament said in its resolution.
The Parliament singled out one company in particular: Nokia Siemens Networks. In 2008 NSN sold Iran a monitoring centre that can be used for snooping on mobile telephone traffic.
The European Parliament now wants to ban the sale of European surveillance technology to “countries like Iran”.
This is all fine and good, but the damage has already been done.
In recent months, relations between the government and opposition in Iran have become strained - not that they were ever particularly easy. Telephone calls and text messages have come under closer scrutiny, and have become more dangerous.
Nokia Siemens Networks has responded to the criticism with three main points:
1: The monitoring centre is part of a telecommunications network package which promotes communications and openness.
2: The monitoring centre can be used to fight real crime.
3: NSN has already sold its unit that manufactures monitoring centres to another company.
The explanations are true, but not convincing.
Throughout its existence, NSN has done poorly. Perhaps the allure of money was too much for the struggling company to resist.
Still, NSN should have known better. The stain on the company’s reputation will stay as long as those in power in Iran continue to persecute those why speak against them, using equipment sold by NSN.