Nokia technology may be used for digital surveillance Russian citizens

Nokia recently stopped selling in Russia after the Russian army’s invasion of Ukraine. But in recent years Nokia has reportedly provided equipment and software to the Russian state to support digital surveillance of its citizens and opposition members via MTS, the largest telecommunications network in Russia, The New York Times reported. It concerns the System for Operative Research Activities (SORM). Nokia denies that it has developed SORM technology itself.

Nokia’s technology may have been used with SORM applications to track down supporters of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny by Russia’s intelligence agency, the FSB.

The Russian System of Operational Investigative Measures (SORM, in Russian: COPM) requires telecommunications operators to install hardware provided by the Federal Security Service (FSB) that allows the agency to monitor the metadata and content of users’ communications, including phone calls, email traffic, and web browsing activity.

SORM is likely still being used as the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin want to silence anti-war voices in Russia. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2015 that the Russian SORM legislation violates the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mass surveillance in Russia includes surveillance, open source intelligence and data mining, interception and telecommunications data retention.

Nokia response

Nkia said in a response: “Legitimate interception is a standard capability that exists in every network in almost every country. It provides well-authorized law enforcement agencies with the ability to monitor and view certain data and communications passing through an operator’s network with for the purpose of fighting crime.In Russia it is known as “SORM”. Nokia does not manufacture, install or maintain SORM equipment or systems. All suggestions are incorrect

Nokia, like any network infrastructure provider, has an obligation to ensure that the network products we sell can communicate with legal interception devices of lawful enforcement authorities. This is governed by internationally recognized standards, as well as local regulations. The lawful interception facility that may exist in an operator’s network containing Nokia products is the operator’s obligation and all associated equipment is provided by third parties. Nokia is unable to monitor, open or disrupt any lawful interception facility in the networks that our customers own and operate.

New York Times

Nokia has not been given the documents on which the New York Times allegedly based its story. However, the NYT confirmed to Nokia that they were the same documents shared and publicly reported by TechCrunch in 2019, and then it was made clear that Nokia does not show the production, installation or maintenance of SORM equipment or systems. Nokia has offered and is still willing to sit down with the New York Times to help its journalists better understand our technical documents.

The information already published by TechCrunch in 2019 shows no more than Nokia’s product interfaces that comply with the standards-based, legal requirements related to lawful interception. All other infrastructure suppliers who have supplied equipment in Russia are subject to the same standards and legal requirements.

Nokia may not even access SORM equipment or systems, whether on the premises of an operator or a relevant authority. In addition, it is a third party that is converting the standards-based interface into Nokia’s products to meet regulatory requirements for interception – a fact also reflected in the 2019 documents.

A commitment to human rights

Nokia ensures that all deals go through our strict human rights due diligence process, which is based on international principles such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This process has been externally reviewed and vetted by the Global Network Initiative (GNI) as the first and only supplier of telecommunications equipment. We comply with all legal restrictions, including having the appropriate export licenses from the relevant governments.

We condemn any abuse of lawful interception to violate human rights. To prevent this, there is a strong need for multilateral action to ensure adequate frameworks. We believe this topic requires immediate attention and, through our participation in GNI, have called for more information on existing legal and technical architectures, as well as discussion of possible changes that may be needed.

Nokia condemns Russian invasion of Ukraine

As stated on March 4, Nokia strongly and unequivocally condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the death of innocent people. Nokia stands for human rights, international cooperation and the rule of law. We support and comply with all sanctions and restrictions and have suspended all our hardware and software deliveries to Russia.”

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