Science and Tech


EU Telecoms Move To Disclose State Surveillance

EU phone operators Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom have released or plan to release transparency reports that detail government surveillance on their networks.
Posted at 10:22 AM, Jun 07, 2014

The last 48 hours were big for European telecoms — two of the region’s leading phone companies revealed state surveillance efforts take heavy advantage of existing phone networks.

Vodafone released a transparency report Friday — 40,000 words on the nature and frequency of government requests for data on subscribers in 29 countries. But even that list isn’t comprehensive.

“The company says there are laws in just a few countries that allow direct access to an operator’s network. In some cases, governments inserted their own equipment into Vodafone’s network.” (Via Al Jazeera)

In those countries, which Vodafone didn’t name, governments don’t have to make disclosure requests — leaving some holes in what the company knows about surveillance on its network.

“Vodafone, as it makes very clear in this report, has to comply with each country’s laws. It does not have a choice if it wants to have a mobile operating license.” (Via CNN)

Also on Friday, Germany-based Deutsche Telekom announced EU governments have a similar arrangement on its network. The company plans to to follow Vodafone’s lead.

It’s released data for Germany, but representatives told The Guardian it expects to publish data from wherever it can.

“We are currently checking if and to what extent our national companies can disclose information. We intend to publish something similar to Vodafone.”

Two of three isn’t necessarily a trend, but it is a majority. France-based Orange is the only one of the big three European telecoms that hasn’t at least announced plans to disclose more information on surveillance efforts on its network.

Techdirt points out  “It may put that company in a tough spot, since it apparently has ‘deep links’ with French intelligence.”

In the meantime, though, privacy advocates have plenty to address. Privacy International called the Vodafone revelation “mass surveillance at its most severe, where government places demands against telcos … without any accountability.”