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Going public? Cellebrite’s tech is incompatible with human rights, investors must make a stand

Israeli digital intelligence firm, Cellebrite, creates technology that is used to violate human rights across the globe. As the company bids to go public, Access Now and other civil society organizations are urging the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the SEC), NASDAQ, and other stakeholders to stop this alarming deal until Cellebrite demonstrates its commitment to safeguarding human rights. 

This call to intervene comes after pressure from U.S. Member of Congress, Tom Malinowski, on key actors — the SEC, NASDAQ, investors, and TWC Tech Holdings II Corp., a special-purpose acquisition company (or SPAC) which is planning to merge with Cellebrite — due to “urgent concern over unresolved human rights risks linked to the sales history of Cellebrite.”

“We know the human rights abuses Cellebrite’s technology has reportedly abetted,” said Hinako Sugiyama, Legal Fellow at Access Now. “The company is also well aware of the risks, yet seems to continue to place these tools into the hands of repressive regimes. ” 

Cellebrite admits that its products pose risks to human rights, and has openly stated they “may be used by customers in a way that is, or that is perceived to be, incompatible with human rights.” It also publicly noted transactions where its Universal Forensic Extraction Device (UFED) tool was reportedly misused  in Hong Kong, Russia, and Bangladesh. Yet Cellebrite underplays the probability of misuse of its products by omitting other reported transactions that carry human rights risks — underscoring the need to address inadequacies in voluntary disclosure, currently being considered by the U.S. Congress.

A company that openly acknowledges the dangers its technology poses to human rights, but continues providing it to authoritarian regimes, cannot be trusted to sufficiently mitigate human rights abuses without external review. Therefore, this coalition is urging stakeholders to use their influence to direct Cellebrite towards transparency and robust human rights protections. Recommendations include: 

  • The SEC: Don’t approve Cellebrite’s draft Form F-4 unless it sufficiently address the lack of safeguards that led to the sale and use of Cellebrite’s technology by dangerous regimes;
  • NASDAQ: Don’t approve Cellebrite’s listing unless it demonstrates its ability to mitigate human rights risks;
  • Investors: Don’t purchase Cellebrite shares unless it demonstrates its ability to mitigate human rights risks;
  • SPAC: Delay closing the merger until Cellebrite demonstrates that its human rights compliance system is robust enough to mitigate human rights risks; and
  • SPAC shareholders: Demand SPAC’s robust disclosure of all aspects of Cellebrite’s human rights compliance programs; vote against the merger and redeem all SPAC shares unless Cellebrite demonstrates its ability to mitigate human rights risks.

Read the full letter.