Vodafone, the world’s second-largest mobile phone carrier behind
China Mobile, revealed Friday that in six countries where it does
business, the government requires direct access to the telecom’s
“In a small number of countries, the law dictates that specific
agencies and authorities must have direct access to an operator’s
network, bypassing any form of operational control over lawful
interception on the part of the operator,” the report said.
Vodafone declined to name those specific countries for legal
reasons but noted that nine countries worldwide — including three
from the European Union — forbid disclosure of any information
related to wiretapping, interception, or surveillance under their
own law. Those countries include Albania, Egypt, Hungary, India,
Malta, Qatar, Romania, South Africa, and Turkey.
The disclosure came as part of a 147-page transparency
report from the United Kingdom-based
telecommunications company, which provides services to 430 million
customers across 27 countries.
Vodafone also noted ominously that “several countries empower
agencies and authorities to require the disclosure of the
encryption ‘keys’ needed to decrypt data. Non-compliance is a
However, it noted that data encrypted on individual devices is
not typically held by a company like Vodafone, and thus it could
not be compelled to hand that information over anyway.
The London-based advocacy group Privacy International lambasted
the types of agreements that allow for unfettered access to a
carrier’s operations. “This is mass surveillance at its most
severe, where government places demands against telcos for broad
access to the data flowing through their wires, operating in
secrecy, under unclear legal bases, without any accountability,”
the group said in a statement.
“The usefulness of transparency reports hinges on governments
abiding by the rule of law,” the statement continued. “We now know
that these reports only provide a limited picture of what is going
on. It is ridiculous that a year after the first Snowden leaks,
governments continue to impoverish our much-needed democratic
debate. It is also incredible that governments think that they may
craft laws to provide for mass surveillance. And it is insulting
that not a single law has changed after a yearlong global debate
This article originally appeared on Ars Technica
8 June 2014 | 7:18 am – Source: wired.co.uk