Iran ready to work with Google, other global Internet companies

Western companies can start offering services in Iran, as long as they abide by local laws

Iran is ready to cooperate with Google and other global Internet companies to allow them to operate in the country, according to Iranian media reports.

Talks are already under way with Google to place servers in Iran, according to a report Sunday from the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). The article quoted remarks made to local press by the country's deputy minister of telecommunications and information technology, Nasrollah Jahangard.

Similar negotiations are ongoing with several other major U.S. and European Internet companies, according to IRNA.

In a separate report from the Fars News Agency (FNA), Iran's semi-official news agency, Jahangard was quoted saying "We are ready to provide Google or any other company with Iran's possibilities and facilities for service providing to the region."

Iran is willing to help these companies enter the market, Jahangard said. Names of the other companies were not released and will be announced when the negotiations reach the final stages, the report said.

Google declined to comment.

Iran will not interfere with the company's services as long as they abide by Iranian law, Jahangard told FNA. However, U.S. sanctions against Iran are a serious obstacle for U.S. companies wanting to operate there, Jahangard said. Negotiations with non-U.S. firms have apparently been easier though. Technical requirements are now being provided for their imminent operation in Iran, FNA reported.

Iran's effort to approach foreign Internet companies fits into a pattern, said Peter Van Roste, general manager of the Council of European National Top Level Domain Registries (CENTR). Iran's registry of the .ir domain IRNIC is a member of CENTR.

According to Van Roste, Iran has become more active on a technical level and has started to work with organizations like the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and Internet standards community the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). "They realize very well what they need to acquire the necessary knowledge to stay informed of all the developments, in particular in the area of security," Van Roste said.

Even though Iran now seems to be opening up a bit to Internet services from outside the country, the question remains what they can actually offer to Internet users in Iran. In December last year, the government unfolded a plan to filter the Internet in order to block "immoral web content," IRNA reported at the time.

Under the system, "characteristics" of all connecting users are automatically identified prior to accessing the Web, the report said.

Smart filtering is for instance used to block "criminal and unethical content" content on Facebook-owned photo-sharing site Instagram, allowing Iranians to use the service to some extent, IRNA reported. However, other social media services like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube would remain blocked in Iran as usual, the report said, adding that in the future, the filtering system should work on all websites people can access in Iran.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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