(Vaguely Artistic / flickr)

Soon after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power last year, protesters stormed the Egyptian national security headquarters, in which police records are housed. Some Egyptians found files the authorities had compiled about them. Others uncovered files focusing on friends and colleagues. There were wiretap transcripts, reams of printouts of intercepted e-mails, and mobile messages, communications once thought to be private.

As it turns out, American-made technology had helped Mubarak and his security state collect, compile, and parse vast amounts of data about everyday citizens. The Egyptian government was using "deep packet inspection" technology purchased from Narus, a Sunnyvale, California-based firm owned by Boeing. The company's most successful product is NarusInsight, which according to Narus' website, helps "network and security operators obtain real-time situational awareness of the traffic traversing their networks." In short, the same technology not only assists network administrators in pursuing attackers and intruders;

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  • REBECCA MACKINNON is Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, Co-Founder of the citizen media network Global Voices Online, and author of Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom.
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