Cisco Sued for Helping China Track Citizens

Published by: Dave Simmons on 24th May 2011 | View all blogs by Dave Simmons
Cisco Sued for Helping China Track Citizens

Cisco Systems has been named in a lawsuit filed by members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement accusing the company of supplying Chinese officials with computer networking equipment used to spy on and persecute dissidents.  In a suit filed last week, the group said that Cisco provided Chinese officials with equipment and helped them build an elaborate system of Internet controls to track the online behavior of its citizens and block content it does not approve of.

The lawsuit alleges that Cisco aggressively marketed and customized products for the system, called the Golden Shield Project, with a full understanding that the technology would be used to spy on groups like the Falun Gong.  With the help of equipment provided by Cisco, officials were able to track the activities of dissidents, including monitoring online meetings held by members of the Falun Gong.  The suit claims that a number of Falun Gong practitioners were detained, tortured, and even killed thanks to Cisco's involvement.

The lawsuit also names a number of top Cisco executives, including CEO John Chambers.  It seeks unspecified monetary damages, as well as an injunction to prevent the company from engaging in “future unlawful activity.”

Cisco released a statement denying the claims made by the lawsuit:

“Cisco does not operate networks in China or elsewhere, nor does Cisco customize our products in any way that would facilitate censorship or repression.  Cisco builds equipment to global standards which facilitate free exchange of information, and we sell the same equipment in China that we sell in other nations worldwide in strict compliance with U.S. government regulations.”

The lawsuit was filed last Thursday in the U.S. District Court in San Jose, California, where Cisco is headquartered.  It was filed under a U.S. law that allows foreign nationals to sue U.S. companies in federal court over violations of international law.

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