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The role of surveillance technology companies

Ahmed Aldoseri of the TRA has confirmed the presence of foreign filtering and the foreign supply of monitoring technology. 1

It is unclear when the first monitoring and surveillance centres were installed in Bahrain, but based on his conversations with former detainees and their representatives, Nabeel Rajab, president of the BCHR, reported that authorities have used messages that dated as far back as the mid-2000s in recent interrogations. 2

Bloomberg reports that as of 2009, the Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) family of related companies was the only known supplier and maintainer of monitoring centers to Bahrain. Company executives understood that they had the only monitoring-center computers in the country, based on conversations with Bahraini officials. NSN and Trovicor’s status as exclusive provider in Bahrain continued at least through 2009. 

Web filtering and monitoring software is also known to have been supplied by US firms. McAfee Inc. (acquired in 2011 by Intel Corp.) is reported to have sold content-filtering software (SmartFilter) to Internet-service providers in Bahrain. Blue Coat Systems Inc. has reportedly sold hardware and technology in Bahrain that has been used in conjunction with McAfee’s Web-filtering software. 3 It was reported in 2011 that the government was planning to switch from MacAfee SmartFilter to technology from Palo Alto Networks Inc., which offered more blocking options and would make it harder for people to circumvent censoring. 4

Most recently, Bloomberg reports that the Bahraini government has purchased spyware from UK-based Gamma Group. To date, the technology has been used to target Bahraini activists and academics. 5