Yesterday, human rights groups published an open letter calling for a halt to the merger of Israeli company Cellebrite with a Nasdaq-listed SPAC, thereby becoming a public company with a $2.4 billion valuation.
Cellebrite is a digital intelligence company headed by Yossi Carmil. Among its products are solutions for collecting and analyzing data from telephones, computers, drones and so on. Carmil stresses that this is without taking over the device remotely, and that the company is a world leader in its field. Other solutions that the company provides are analysis tools to aid investigators in laboratory conditions, and investigation and data management tools.
The letter in the name of an organization called Access Now and 29 other civil society organizations and individuals states that Cellebrite should not be allowed to become a public company "unless it demonstrates its ability to mitigate human rights risks." It claims that "Cellebrite flagrantly admits that its products pose risks to human rights," and mentions human rights risks as one of the risks involved in buying shares in the company. "We know the human rights abuses Cellebrite’s technology has reportedly abetted The company is also well aware of the risks, yet seems to continue to place these tools into the hands of repressive regimes," the letter quotes Hinako Sugiyama, Legal Fellow at Access Now, as saying. Among the countries that the organization claims have bought Cellebrite products are Botswana, Ghana, Nigeria, Myanmar, Indonesia, India, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia.
Access Now says that although the company states that it has a system in place for enforcing preservation of human rights, it provides no details of it and does not report how it ensures that customers will not use its products or sell them after their contracts with the company end.
The authors of the letter appeal specifically to the US Securities and Exchange Commission not to approve Cellebrite's listing document, as well as to Nasdaq, the SPAC company, and investors in the accompanying share offering.
Interviewed in "Globes" recently, Carmil said, "A player like us takes into account that its tools could fall into the wrong hands or be used wrongly. The company has developed internal mechanisms, technological and contractual, to ensure that this will not happen. We have a department that deals with the matter according to internal criteria of human rights and corruption, and there is an ethics committee of the board of directors. We control every license, and if we identify that someone is not going in the right direction, we disable the product remotely."
Cellebrite stated in response to the letter, "Cellebrite is committed to safeguarding human rights, and has developed strong control mechanisms to ensure that our technology is used properly, in investigations subject to law.
"Every year, Cellebrite's solutions assist millions of investigations around the world in solving serious crimes - exploitation of children, rape and violence in the family, the fight against terror, trafficking in human beings, and more. Our global customers, among them thousands of leading law enforcement agencies, are committed to legal use of the technology, in order to maintain a safer world.
"We sell our technology only to companies, organizations and agencies that comply with the terms of our licensing agreements with the end user. Customers that do not abide by these terms cease to receive support services for the product and their licenses will not be renewed. Cellebrite does not sell to countries that are not approved by the governments of the US, the EU, the UK, or Israel."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on July 14, 2021
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