A venture between Nokia Corp. (NOK) and Siemens AG (SI) mentions in its Code of Conduct that it will respect the rights laid down by the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The statement did not seem to apply to its business in Iran.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the European companies sold Iran the technology for what's known as deep packet inspection, which the paper says "involves inserting equipment into a flow of online data, from emails and Internet phone calls to images and messages on social-networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter."
The ramifications are startling, particularly given the prominent role Facebook and Twitter have played as Iranians furious about rampant fraud in their presidential election evaded the official censorship of the state-run media.
"This is definitely a violation of their own code of conduct," said Danny O'Brien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in an interview with DailyFinance. A spokesman for the companies could not be reached. The companies have denied any wrongdoing. More interestingly, O'Brien also noted that for all of the technical sophistication of the Iranian censorship, it's not working since pictures and video of crackdown in Iran is reaching the world's media. Wired.com is reporting that some people are urging a boycott of Nokia and Siemens.
Some conservatives are now pushing the idea of divestment from Iran, borrowing a page from activists who fought against apartheid in South Africa during the 1980s and Israel's treatment of the Palestinians presently. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, not surprisingly, supports tougher sanctions against Iran being pushed in Congress. One bill, The Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, would require President Barack Obama "to impose sanctions on companies helping Iran in these areas," according to AIPAC.
"Divestment from Iran remains an effective tool -- indeed, increasingly, the Iranian economy is in the hands of the Revolutionary Guard (see here: http://www.aei.org/outlook/
Another way people are registering their disgust with Tehran is with their computers. Increasing numbers of people are volunteering to allow their computers to be used by Tor, a network backed by the Voice of America that lets people surf the internet anonymously, according to spokesman Andrew Lewman.
Doing business in Iran, which is never easy, is about to get even more difficult.