|February 1, 2013
Every day, billions of emails and phone calls flow through communications networks in countries across the world. Now, one American company has built technology capable of spying on them all—and business is booming.
Verint, a leading manufacturer of surveillance technologies, is headquartered in Melville, N.Y., in a small cluster of nondescript buildings that also includes the office of a multinational cosmetics supplier and some electronics companies.
Among Verint’s products are unremarkable security cameras and systems that enable call center managers to monitor their workers. But it also sells some of the world’s most sophisticated eavesdropping equipment, creating a line of spy tools designed to help governments and intelligence agencies snoop on communications across an entire country.
Verint sells what it calls “monitoring centers” that “enable the interception, monitoring, and analysis of target and mass communications over virtually any network.” These systems are designed to be integrated within a country’s communications infrastructure and, according to Verint’s website, are currently used in more than 75 nations.
The technology Verint designs doesn’t just target specific criminal groups or terrorists. It can be tailored to intercept the phone calls and emails of millions of everyday citizens and store them on vast databases for later analysis. Verint boasts in its marketing materials that its “Vantage” monitoring center enables “nationwide mass interception” and “efficiently collects, analyzes, and exposes threats from billions of communications.” And if that’s not enough to satisfy spy agencies’ thirst for intelligence, Verint has more to offer. The company says it can also help governments automatically identify people from the sound of their voice using speech identification software, intercept the cellular and satellite mobile phone communications of “mass populations over a wide area” using a covert portable device, and provide data-mining tools to build detailed profiles about criminals and other “negative influencers” in real time.