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HOW STUFF WORKS / INDUSTRY

Cisco Sued As Its Tech Led To People Being Tortured

By Tony Ibrahim | Tuesday | 06/09/2011

A human rights group is suing tech giant Cisco for tailoring its technology to cater to the needs of an oppresive group who detained and tortured individuals.

According to the SMH, the Human Rights Law Foundation filed a suit against Cisco in May citing legislation that holds companies accountable for human right violations committed abroad.

Cisco is being accused of aiding the Chinese government develop its "Golden Shield Project", under which members of the banned Falun Gong were jailed and tortured.

Cisco CEO John Chambers is being alleged of meeting with the head of the persecutory campaign against the Falun Gong during the Golden Shield's design and development. Chambers is believed to have known about the persecution and torture of Falun Gong members, but chose to continue with the project anyway.

A Cisco engineer said "Cisco provided a secure connection to provincial security databases allowing for thorough cross-checking and movement-tracing … [such that] policemen could remotely access the suspect's work unit, access reports on the individual's political behaviour … family history … fingerprints, photographs and other imaging information."

"The Chinese police could even check remotely whether the suspect had built or contributed to a website in the last three months, access the suspect's surfing history and read his email."

The Golden Shield Project makes up part of the Great Firewall of China, and censors politically sensitive online information, with the addition of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

According to the complaint, Cisco also developed anti-virus software that was used to identify, track and block the internet activities of Falun Gong users, also creating new "first-of-their-kind features that Cisco suggested Chinese security officers use to facilitate the detection, apprehension and interrogation of Falun Gong, knowing that the interrogation of Falun Gong practitioners included and resulted in their torture and further persecution."

Previously Cisco claimed it simply provided the technology, and denied customising it or training members of the Golden Shield.

The information gleaned by the software allowed for coordinated large-scale investigations, without the need of ransacking homes and offices for more information. 

This case is running simultaneously to another against Cisco, which alleges the company's technology and training of the Chinese Communist Party resulted in the torturing of Chinese political prisoners.

A leaked 2002 presentation has become a central part to the latter case, as it documents how Cisco products can achieve China's goals of "maintaining stability," "stop the network-related crimes" and "combat 'Falun Gong' evil religion and other hostiles."

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