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How Mobile Operators Are Caught In the Middle In the Middle East and Africa 57

Posted by timothy
from the life-on-the-margins dept.
First time accepted submitter singinho writes "In times of political turmoil, operators are caught in the middle, between the wishes of the regime and the communications needs of the public. Orange exec Marc Rennard explains how he is forced to risk the lives of his employees." Companies operating with the blessing of any particular regime end up in some interesting predicaments; trying to keep communications open in a place like Mali (one of the places Rennard oversees) must make for some exciting work days for the guys in the field.
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How Mobile Operators Are Caught In the Middle In the Middle East and Africa

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  • by water-and-sewer (612923) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @01:27PM (#42617999) Homepage

    I spent a lot of time researching autocratic leaders (call them Dictators, or just "Dicks" if you like) when writing the Dictator's Handbook (http://www.dictatorshandbook.net/ [dictatorshandbook.net]) and the research shows that despite promises to the contrary about the benefits of privatization, clever dictators can still have their way with privately-run services like cellphone companies. It's normal - almost expected - in much of the world for calls to be monitored, intercepted, dropped, and blocked. Everyone knows the SMS outage stories (Belarus, Russia, Egypt, to name just a few) but it goes way beyond that. Most of the commercial gadget conveniences that have made life easier have benefitted autocrats as well, who have new ways to track, monitor, and basically hassle its people. Chapters 4 and 11 of the Handbook cover it in depth. Now we get to smart phones, facebook accounts, linkedin profiles, and all the happy social media stuff: it's all a treasure trove for autocrats. The research dug up anecdotes about Iranians dragged in for questioning and presented with copies of their own email, cellphone call record, and worse.

    If you want to weaken dictators, I don't think Twitter is the way to go. Shortwave radio was just as effective, if not more, and it was a hell of a lot harder to block. Cellphone operators are absolutely in a tough spot: required to meet quality-of-service rules while simultaneously kissing the Dictator's Ass. It's not an enviable place to be in, I can assure you.

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