Hague Iran snafu raises questions about software exports

Iran is a touchy subject. Leader Ahmadinejad does his best to tow a sketchy moral line while oppressing his people and provoking world leaders. He’s not the most popular man in the west. Funny then, that shortly after the Coalition announced its support for an Arab Spring, foreign secretary William Hague has been linked to a company doing its best to help Mahmoud quash dissidents in his country.

Creativity Software Ltd. is a British technology company which has ties with Hague. He allegedly took money from the chairman of MMC Ventures, a company which holds a stake in Creativity Software, to pay for a researcher according to Bloomberg

Brushing the accusations aside, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said Creativity’s software isn’t covered by export control – which means it hasn’t broken the law. 

Anyway, “MMC Ventures is a minority investor in Creativity Software and as such it would be completely inappropriate for us to comment on the day-to-day running of the company, including the individual contracts that they have, not least for reasons of confidentiality,” said MMC.

Among others, Creativity is alleged to have provided Iran with location tracking and SMS monitoring technology – essentially turning mobile phones into surveillance machines to track their users. 

It mirrors the controversy surrounding Nokia Siemens Networks, which also supplied monitoring gear to Iran which led to human rights activists being arrested in the country. 

Nokia Siemens Networks avoided further flak by simply spinning off its monitoring technology, under the company Trovicor, into holding company Perusa Partners Fund. Trovicor provided the same service as Nokia. NSN staff were part of the package, including former head of worldwide sales and customer care for Nokia Siemens, Johann Preinsberger, who acted as Trovicor CEO. 

While the UK is up in arms about western companies aiding questionable regimes, perhaps the pressure should also mount on firms like Cisco which provides surveillance technology to China. 

Similarly, Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, which operates in the United Kingdom and has contracts in the public sector, was recently accused of boasting to Iranian officials that – because of its experience in China – its technology is perfect for monitoring dissidents. 

Hague has not yet made a formal statement.