Our Approach to Exports
Searching for the Truth in a Complex World
Whether the world is more complex today than in generations past is a matter of perspective. But it’s difficult to deny that the world is more interconnected than ever before.
A decade long civil war has led to refugees flocking to safety in the region and beyond. Companies are able to reach global markets with products and services, creating unprecedented prosperity. In the case of digital products, it can be done at the click of a button. And we’ve faced a pandemic affecting every corner of the globe.
This interconnectedness has largely been positive. But it has exposed us to new challenges. For Magnet Forensics, one of the greatest challenges we face is deciding where and to whom we sell our digital forensics products globally.
Helping our customers seek justice is not just a corporate moniker for Magnet Forensics. It’s core to who we are. Fundamental to that pursuit is surfacing the truth.
Justice in the democratic tradition has relied heavily on hearsay evidence in an aim to establish the truth beyond a reasonable doubt. The advent of forensics has been a game-changer in the pursuit of justice. Such primary evidence has closed the levels of doubt in successful convictions and exonerating the innocent.
But the reality is that the definition of justice and its application differs from country to country. In some less democratic countries, laws are not equally applied. In other countries, human rights are blatantly disregarded, and laws exist on the books that are unjust.
This is not a finite situation: Some countries and their governments have taken strides towards democracy, including respect for the rule of law. Others have regressed towards authoritarianism or the abuse of citizens’ human rights.
Governments in democratic countries whose companies are exporting products globally seem to address these countries in two manners: Isolation or engagement.
For those countries that are largely isolated from the global economy, the solution is simple. Magnet Forensics abides by all export sanctions and controls placed on us by the legal jurisdictions we operate in. Further, we do not circumvent the spirit of those laws by exporting our software tools from countries who do allow such exports to the isolated countries or specific entities.
The more challenging piece is around countries where engagement is the selected path. It’s difficult to overlook things like blatant cronyism by government officials or the marginalization of ethnic minorities. But engagement has its benefits over a longer time horizon. By exposing citizens of such countries to international media and the opportunities created through commerce we can help create the case for change.
Digital forensics has a role to play. Surfacing facts in the justice sector, regardless of the freedoms afforded to citizens in a given country is a cause worthy of pursuit. For example, a digital forensics report exonerating a political dissident held on trumped up charges in an autocratic regime may not be enough to secure their freedom. But it may compel a police officer or judge to blow the whistle on the abuse of the rule of law.
In recent years, media reports about surveillance technologies being exported to less democratic countries that have enabled human rights abuses has given us serious pause for concern. We reviewed our own policies and procedures as a result.
We know that surveillance tools are fundamentally different than digital forensics tools and have a greater potential to be abused. But this does not absolve us of from the risk of our tools being improperly used. While it would be easier to simply stop exporting our tools to countries that pose any risk, we decided to continue to engage with caution because we believe that supporting those in a society who pursue the truth and justice is a worthy cause relative to the known risks.
This is not to say that we will sell our products in any country or to any entity it’s legal to do so. Our approach aims to balance the effort to engage with our own values.
We at Magnet Forensics reserve the right to not sell our products to customers or in jurisdictions despite having the legal ability to do so and we have exercised this right.
We look to understand the human rights situation and the respect for the rule of law in countries where we are exporting our digital forensics tools to, leveraging government and respected third parties’ reports. Ultimately, that call is made by an independent member of the Magnet team who is not compensated based on sales opportunities.
This is not to suggest we are perfect. A decision to sell our tools in a given country in the past may not present well now given the rapidly changing geopolitical landscape. We course correct where possible. But we also take solace from Gandhi’s maxim that the “truth never damages a cause that is just”. It reminds us of the importance of our mission in surfacing the truth, helping seek justice and spreading our tools and values in our complex world.