Cellebrite sold its phone-hacking tools despite numerous reports revealing extensive human rights violations in Uganda
Uganda’s police has confirmed that it had bought Israeli cyber company Cellebrite’s technology for hacking into cellphones.
Haaretz reported last week that the firm sold its phone-hacking tools despite numerous reports revealing extensive human rights violations in the country.
Cellebrite’s flagship product is a technology called UFED, which enables enforcement authorities to hack into password-protected cell phones, download all the information stored and even restore deleted content.
In a letter sent by Israeli human rights lawyer Eitay Mack to Israel’s Defense Ministry and Cellebrite, a number of human rights activists call for cessation of sales of the technology and support services to the repressive regime, headed by President Yoweri Museveni for the last 35 years. The letter lists murders, abductions and torture by the local police of human rights activists, minorities and the LGBTQ community.
Cellebrite claims its tools are sold only to police and security organizations for the purpose of fighting serious crime and terrorism. As has been reported in Haaretz, however, its customers have included repressive, sanctioned regimes, among them Belarus, China and Hong Kong, Venezuela, Indonesia, Russia, the Philippines, and the notorious the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) death squad in Bangladesh.
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Use of Cellebrite in Uganda was kept secret until a local supplier made public on its website that it had supplied Uganda’s police with the UFED system.
The director of the Police’s ICT Directorate, Yusuf Sewanyana, confirmed to Uganda Radio Network that the technology was procured, but claimed it is not in use at the moment.
Cellebrite has responded that the company is “ensuring legal and ethical use of its products… we have developed strict means of oversight that will ensure proper use of our technology in the context of investigations carried out under the law.”
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