The Global Network Initiative commends recent actions by the U.S. and Canadian governments to ensure that sanctions do not prevent Iranian citizens from using information and communication technologies to communicate securely.

On May 30, the U.S. Treasury Department issued a new General License authorizing exports to Iran of certain services, software, and hardware incident to personal communications. The License builds on previous regulations and for the first time makes legal exports to Iran of hardware including mobile phones and computers, as well as critical software and services, such as anti-virus software, VPNs, anti-censorship tools, and access to online app stores. The General License was announced the day after Canada exempted some “consumer communication technologies that contribute to Internet freedom” from a new round of sanctions on Iran.

“This is an important development that will help Iranians get access to vital communications and security technologies,” said Jillian York, director of international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a GNI participant. “EFF hopes to see a similar license extended to cover other sanctioned countries, such as Syria, Sudan, and Cuba.”

GNI is encouraged by these steps, which make clear that sanctions should not infringe upon universal rights to freedom of expression and privacy.