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11 Sep 2020

Oded Yaron, Haaretz

Israeli firm Cellebrite allegedly sold phone-hacking tech to Venezuela; company says will not sell its new system to the current regime

The Israeli firm Cellebrite sold its phone-hacking technology to Nicolás Maduro's regime in Venezuela, despite American sanctions which ban exports to the country... Cellebrite vehemently denies any bid to sell its new system, capable of allowing regimes to break into mobile phones, to the South American nation. “Cellebrite hasn't worked with defense or police clients in Venezuela for a number of years, and will not change its policy regarding the country as long as the current regime is holding on to power,” the firm said. 

... The... allegations... are linked to a petition by human rights lawyer Eitay Mack, made to the Defense Export Control Agency, a part of Israel’s Defense Ministry charged with overseeing arms exports. Mack is demanding the authority also oversee Cellebrite and its activities... Maduro's regime announced its plans to purchase the system last year, and has since repeated the claims in a number of official statements and publications.

... Cellebrite has a relatively positive profile in terms of human rights, casting itself as a company committed to high ethical standards despite reports of problematic uses of its technology... The company has faced allegations by human rights activists that it sells its equipment to both the Chinese regime in its bid to crack down on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, and to the government in protest-torn Belarus – claims the firm has either denied or refused to confirm or respond to... "We do not sell our technology to countries on the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) blacklist or subject to American sanctions, or those by the Israeli government or international community.”