Swedish technology is being used against protestors in Hong Kong

An infographic from the MSAB company

The Swedish forensic technology developer company MSAB has previously been criticized for how their groundbreaking technology has been used against political opposition, pro-democracy protestors, and refugees, SVT writes.

The software works by decrypting passwords to access phones data and it is also able to restore deleted data. Therefore, it is a great tool for forensic work in an investigation, but it has also become a tool for more questionable purposes.

In April of 2020, it was revealed by the famous Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong that the police had used the XRY software to access his phone data. This was documented in a court document that Wong posted on his social media profile. It took the police less than an hour to hack Wong’s password-protected phone using the software they bought from MSAB.

After threats of being blacklisted by the U.S. MSAB withdrew their operation from China and Hong Kong where they had offices up until.

The Myanmar connection

In the spring of 2021, it was then revealed in leaked documents from the Myanmar government that one of the technologies that the military state uses is from MSAB. The technology in question is made to download content from phones as well as deleted content. New York Times broke this news, and it created a big stir in Sweden.

According to MSAB’s chairman Henrik Tjernberg, some of MSAB’s technology had in previous times “ended up” in Myanmar but he insisted that MSAB did not deal with Myanmar anymore because of the EU trade embargo.

In addition, MSAB software has also been used by German authorities to scan asylum seekers’ phones in an attempt to conclude their identity and personal data. This practice was deemed illegal by a German court in June this year.

MSAB response

Swedish SVT has tried to contact the administrative director of MSAB Joel Bollö for an interview. But the company has rejected this and instead given a written answer:

“We assess the countries we are selling to continuously and we follow the political situation in the countries we operate in. We have stopped selling to both Russia and China”

The company also writes:

“The purpose of our products is to strengthen the rule of law state principal and thus the democratic development and human rights”.

About Lasse Sandholdt

ScandAsia Journalist • Scandinavian Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

View all posts by Lasse Sandholdt

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