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Verint sells surveillance programs to oppressive regimes, watchdog group says

The Verint Systems building at 330 South Service

The Verint Systems building at 330 South Service Rd. in Melville on Jan. 6, 2014. Credit: Steve Pfost

Verint Systems, Long Island's largest software company, was accused by a watchdog group Thursday of supplying surveillance programs to Central Asian governments that use the technology to spy on activists and silence dissent.

The Melville company, which makes programs to monitor telephone calls, Internet chats and other communications, was among a handful of multinational corporations cited in a 96-page report by Privacy International for equipping oppressive regimes, including in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

"The brutal secret police of authoritarian states have been empowered with sweeping surveillance capabilities, aimed at putting the private lives of every individual within their reach," said Edin Omanovic, a co-author of the report. "This is exactly the kind of nightmare scenario that becomes inevitable when you have an unaccountable industry operating under the radar."

Verint declined to comment on the report, which based its findings largely on anonymous sources.

Verint, founded in 1994, produces programs that are primarily used to analyze data in corporate call centers. Its customers include 80 percent of Fortune 100 companies. According to the company's securities filings, Verint also sells security and surveillance programs to government agencies around the globe.

Privacy International, based in London, accused Verint's Israeli arm and a second company, Nice Systems of Israel, of outfitting and maintaining centers in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan with "mass surveillance capabilities" enabling government officials to intercept virtually any electronic communication.

The group Human Rights Watch has been extremely critical of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, saying authorities have aggressively, and sometimes brutally, suppressed free speech and dissidents in both nations.

Nonetheless, the United States maintains diplomatic and trade relations with the countries. Verint's contracts cited by Privacy International were approved by Israeli national security officials, the report said.

Verint has been among Long Island's fastest-growing companies since the recession, with sales last year of $910 million. Its stock closed at $58.99 Thursday on the Nasdaq Market, up 1.01 percent. Its shares are up more than 37 percent since Jan. 2.

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