What Ericsson did deliver to Iranian mobile operator Irancell was a system for ”location based charging”, used to determine where the caller is when making a phone call on his mobile, in order to be able to charge the right tariff, according to Ericsson press spokesperson Fredrik Hallstan.
”But this system doesn't make it possible for anyone to actively track the caller in real time,” Hallstan told The Local.
The rejection follows claims from news agency Bloomberg that Ericsson has been providing Iran with technology capable of tracking dissidents through their mobile phone activity.
Following the demonstrations around the time of the presidential election in 2009, many Iranian protesters were rounded up by police and imprisoned for speaking up against the regime.
Bloomberg has gone through over one hundred documents and interviewed a large number of people and claim that Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson, along with two European telecom companies, provided the Iranian government with the means to monitor these protesters through their mobile phone and email activity during that same period of time.
However, according to Hallstan, the only other documents that Bloomberg journalists could have seen would be where local representatives have joined into discussions in a tender process but where the company has chosen to pull out.
”There was a text messaging service under discussion at one point that we chose to pull out of. We bid on it together with a partner and withdrew from the tender as we did not want to integrate our standard system into their solution,” Hallstan said.
He also added that Ericsson has been reducing their commitment in the country gradually over the last few years.
”But we have been operating in the region for 30 years,” he said.
Hallstan thinks it is natural that Ericsson will continue to maintain existing systems in Iran.
”It is in everyone's interest that you can call in and out of the country,” he said.
Despite the wave of reactions that the Bloomberg report has unleashed in the media, Hallstan is confident about Ericsson's role.
”Technology can always be put to the wrong use, but we have witnessed how telecommunications and social media are crucial for civil resistance, as could be seen for example during the Arab Spring, when it certainly furthered democratic developments,” Hallstan told The Local.