January 16, 2013
Human rights monitors have documented the use of US-manufactured Internet surveillance and censorship gear in 21 countries, some with checkered human rights policies such as Syria, China, and Saudi Arabia.
The report, titled Planet Blue Coat: Mapping Global Censorship and Surveillance Tools, scanned the Internet for unique digital signatures transmitted by equipment made by Blue Coat Systems. The analysis determined that PacketShaper, a Blue Coat device that detects more than 600 Web applications and controls undesirable traffic, was being used by a slew of countries: Afghanistan, Bahrain, China, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, and Venezuela. Researchers also found a second Web filtering program called ProxySG was being used by Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
The New York Times has a detailed report on the findings here.
According to the Times, the technology isn’t subject to US State Department export restrictions except to countries such as Syria, Iran, and North Korea (all on an embargo list). Still, principal researchers, from the Citizen Lab research group at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, said they wanted to call attention to the proliferation of surveillance and content-filtering technology on the Internet.