U.S.-Canadian firm Sandvine fosters Russian censorship infrastructure

BREAKING: Infamous Canadian-American company, Sandvine Corporation, owned by a notorious Silicon Valley investment firm, Francisco Partners, was providing Russia with Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technologies, according to a Bloomberg investigation published today. 

Access Now calls on Sandvine to immediately withdraw all technology from Russia that could be used for censorship and surveillance, and for the U.S. government to launch a full investigation into Sandvine’s involvement in Russia and other countries with human rights abuses, and implement robust regulations of technologies that can be misused for human rights violations.

Sandvine has been selling DPI technologies through its Russian partners, state-owned Tele2 Russia and Megafon. Sandvine’s DPI tech has helped facilitate human rights abuses in more than a dozen countries, including Egypt, Syria, Turkey, and, most recently, in Belarus—where the company was forced to pull out its business in 2020 after scandal and pressure from U.S. officials, diaspora groups, and human rights organizations, led by Access Now. 

“Sandvine has refused to learn a lesson from Belarus, and has decided to sell its technology to the Russian government, where the technology is likely implicated in helping Putin’s regime censor independent sources of information, leading up to the war in Ukraine,” said Natalia Krapiva, Tech-Legal Counsel at Access Now. “As sanctions against Russia and Belarus are mounting, the first companies that should face accountability are companies that help silence anti-war voices and facilitate repression — the U.S. government must start with Sandvine.” 

While Sandvine claims they provided their technology only for legitimate purposes, according to Bloomberg, Sandvine representatives told prospective clients in Moscow that the technology could be used to block or slow access to specific websites and surveil people. 

“Under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), Sandvine and its owner, Francisco Partners, have a responsibility to enact human rights due diligence to prevent the use of its technologies in the violation of human rights,” said Isedua Oribhabor, Business and Human Rights Lead at Access Now. “It’s time for the international community to hold Sandvine and Francisco Partners accountable.”

The new Sandvine revelations come after another investigation by The New York Times into Finnish company Nokia’s past involvement in providing surveillance infrastructure for Russia’s System for Operative Investigative Activities (SORM). Nokia reportedly withdrew from the country after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but left the surveillance equipment behind. 

Sandvine is one of many companies profiting from within the unchecked surveillance industry. Access Now, and civil society from across the globe, is lobbying governments to establish a moratorium limiting the sale, transfer, and use of abusive surveillance technologies, and to reform surveillance laws to protect human rights.