Human rights advocates has filed a new court petition against the Israeli phone hacking company Cellebrite. urging Israel’s ministry of defense to bring a halt of the firm’s exports to the Hong Kong.
Where security forces have been using the technology in crackdowns against dissidents as China takes greater control.
Hong Kong police documents show the use of Cellebrite to hack and unlock phones of the protesters. Former police officers have confirmed that Cellebrite has long been used by Hong Kong. But why?
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In July, police court filings revealed that Cellebrite’s phone hacking technology has been used to break into 4,000 phones of the Hong Kong citizens, including prominent pro-democracy politician and activist Joshua Wong. He subsequently launched an online petition to end Cellebrite’s sales to Hong Kong, which gained 35,000 signatures.
As quoted “Defense Ministry officials must immediately stop the export of the Cellebrite system which is used for infringement on privacy, deprivation of liberty and freedom of expression, and political incrimination of the Hong Kong citizens under the new National Security Law,” Wong wrote in a Facebook post urging Israel to stop Cellebrite’s exports to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s new security law, which increases Beijing’s control of the city, defines pro-democracy protests as terrorism, severely limits free speech, and reduces much of the autonomy that the city once had from China. As of May, the United States no longer considered Hong Kong autonomous from the mainland.
Hong Kong activists say that Cellebrite’s tech is “used to inflict terrorism on the city’s residents and to attack demonstrators and pro-democracy activists.” Israeli human rights advocates say exports to Hong Kong police should legally have stopped in 2019 when anti-democratic crackdowns grew dramatically. Think about it.
Hence the Israeli petition in court aims to put legal and political pressure on the technology firm, which is based in Tel Aviv.
Eitay Mack says and I quote “I’m asking the minister of defense to stop the Cellebrite exports to Hong Kong,” the human rights lawyer who filed the petition in the district court in Tel Aviv. Says and I quote “I’m also saying that, as far as I know, they never got an export license.
The ministry of defense needs to enforce the law from companies with licenses, but also they need to do oversight on companies working without a license.
The company has government customers spanning the United States, Europe, and Asia. In 2019, it boasted that it could unlock any iPhone and most Android phones.
Cellebrite’s powerful technology is been sold to police and security forces around the world, and there are big questions over what democratic oversight and regulation of the company actually exists.
Cellebrite would really need to get an export license from Israel’s economic or defense ministry. Officials at the economic ministry say they have not granted such a license, and the defense ministry has maintained quietness on Cellebrite’s sales issues.
The agency, which has a policy of not commenting on specific companies it regulates, has not responded to Mack’s inquiries, or to requests for comment for this article.
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