Vodafone, one of the largest telephone services company has released a “Law Enforcement Disclosure Report” yesterday, in which it has declared that at least six countries have direct, special pipes to listen into all telecom conversations.
The report covered 29 countries. Though the report refrains from naming countries explicitly, it mentions the number of requests from governments it has processed. Nine countries have laws against revealing any details about government requested surveillance, including India. The Indian government too wanted access to phone communication details, email access and also the details of person’s whereabouts based on mobile signals, but the company cannot reveal the extent of such requests, said Vodafone.
Recent public protests over internet and mobile surveillance by governments have raised significant questions in relation to privacy and public freedom. Vodafone’s group privacy officer, Stephen Deadman, said: “These pipes exist, the direct access model exists. We are making a call to end direct access as a means of government agencies obtaining people’s communication data. Without an official warrant, there is no external visibility. If we receive a demand we can push back against the agency. The fact that a government has to issue a piece of paper is an important constraint on how powers are used.”
Edward Snowden’s leaks on government surveillance over internet has prompted several internet communications companies like Microsoft to come out and reveal information of number of government requests they process. Few American telecom companies too came out with local data of such snooping. Vodafone’s present report is the most comprehensive and covers several governments. The report says that Italy has demanded the most number of information requests, followed by Hungary, Spain, Portugal and others. Albania, Egypt, Hungary, India, Malta, Qatar, Romania, South Africa and Turkey have restrictions on revealing the details.