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1 May 2012

Catherine Dunn, Corporate Counsel [USA]

Peer Pressure

American companies have been criticized in recent years for selling technology to countries that may use it to thwart dissent…A Chinese company took center stage [in March] because it's a major supplier of cameras and surveillance tools to Chinese authorities, and because its video unit, Uniview Technologies Co., was bought…by a fund run by Bain Capital. The Bain connection made this especially newsworthy because the private equity firm was founded by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and Uniview is now in his family's blind trust…Overshadowed by the political fracas were recent developments that significantly up the ante for companies that venture into this tricky terrain…U.S. export regulations restrict the flow of "crime control" to many countries…In practice, though, the United States has allowed businesses wide latitude, particularly when it comes to dual-use technologies…Two lawsuits against Cisco Systems, Inc., are testing U.S. courts on these issues…But many experts believe that the biggest risks to firms in the surveillance trade are to the brand name. [also refers to Verizon, Sandvine, McAfee (part of Intel), Websense, Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Blue Coat]