AS FURIOUS ANTI-GOVERNMENT protests swept Iran, the authorities retaliated with both brute force and digital repression. Iranian mobile and internet users reported rolling network blackouts, mobile app restrictions, and other disruptions. Many expressed fears that the government can track their activities through their indispensable and ubiquitous smartphones.
Iran’s tight grip on the country’s connection to the global internet has proven an effective tool for suppressing unrest. The lack of clarity about what technological powers are held by the Iranian government — one of the most opaque and isolated in the world — has engendered its own form of quiet terror for prospective dissidents. Protesters have often been left wondering how the government was able to track down their locations or gain access to their private communications — tactics that are frighteningly pervasive but whose mechanisms are virtually unknown.