Boeing-owned firm 'helped Egypt eavesdrop'

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Advocacy group Free Press is alleging that a Californian company has been helping the Egyptian government inspect the contents of email, Twitter and Facebook messages.

IP network traffic intelligence company Narus - owned by Boeing -  counts Telecom Egypt amongst its customers. And Free Press claims that it's been using Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to help the government eavesdrop on communications and even track cellphone users via GPS coordinates and SMS messaging.

Using DPI, it's possible to reconstruct emails and attachments, see what web pages a user has clicked on and reconstruct voice-over-IP phone calls.

"What we are seeing in Egypt is a frightening example of how the power of technology can be abused," says Free Press campaign director Timothy Karr.

"Commercial operators trafficking in Deep Packet Inspection technology to violate internet users' privacy is bad enough; in government hands, that same invasion of privacy can quickly lead to stark human rights violations."

Narus' NarusInsight system is used by the US National Security Agency for surveillance of internet communications. And Free Press is calling for the US Congress to establish transparent standards for the use of DPI technology in order to preserve human rights.

"The harm to democracy and the power to control the internet are so disturbing that the threshold for the global trafficking in DPI must be set very high," says Karr.