Cellebrite faces more human rights concerns as it goes public, amid reports repressive regimes kept buying products after company said it ended sales; incl. co. response
After Israeli digital intelligence firm Cellebrite announced in the spring of 2021 its intention to go public, the company acknowledged and sought to address “key risks” that its products are used to violate human rights and this could damage its reputation. The company's subsequent statements did little to allay concerns among civil society organisations calling for actions rather than words, amid further reports of the company's technology being used against journalists and its continued sale to Chinese police after Cellebrite has said its withdrawn from the country.
By way of background, in July 2021 the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Cellebrite to respond to accusations of facilitating human rights violations by selling its products to repressive regimes, and in August invited Nasdaq, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and other stakeholders to respond to calls from civil society to halt Cellebrite from going public until its human rights compliance is demonstrated.
In August, Cellebrite announced that the SEC had approved its Form F-4 Registration Statement, allowing Cellebrite to go public with a NASDAQ listing. NGO Access Now set out unresolved concerns relating to Cellebrite's human rights record, alleging it has not addressed reported transactions that carry human rights risks with the governments of Bahrain, Vietnam, and Botswana, among others. Access Now also reported that Cellebrite has not disclosed a meaningful human rights policy, demonstrated well-designed policy and procedures for customer due diligence to mitigate human rights risks, or provided remedy to individuals potentially harmed by Cellebrite’s technology, among other measures, and that Cellebrite’s “Ethics & Integrity” statements are misleading. Meanwhile, The Intercept reported that the police in China continue to buy Cellebrite products, even after Cellebrite said it had withdrawn from China. Nevertheless, the firm began trading on Nasdaq on August 31.
In early September, the Resource Centre invited Cellebrite to respond to the concerns listed above. Cellebrite provided the linked response, announcing the establishment of an "Ethics and Integrity Committee that will serve as an advisory body to the Board. The role of the Committee is to advise the Board of Directors on matters pertaining to evolving international law, ethical considerations related to responsible business practices, and requirements under law and regulations applied to the sale and use of Cellebrite’s technologies." The response stated that "Cellebrite generally does not enter into business with customers whose positions or actions we consider inconsistent with our mission to support law enforcement acting in a legal manner", and that "Subsequent to Cellebrite’s withdrawal from China, Beijing Information Security Technology confirmed termination of its agreement with Cellebrite and attested to the fact that all Cellebrite units in its possession had been destroyed", while Smile, another company reported to be reselling Cellebrite's equipment, "was never an authorized reseller of Cellebrite products." The full response is attached.