Vodafone exposes government wire-tapping

We now know that no matter what technology we use, if it’s connected, then it’s probably able to be tapped by the government. NSA leaker and now fugitive/hero, Edward Snowden, revealed a torrential amount of details about the abilities of the United States spying program on international citizens.  

Few companies have come forward about their own involvement and the scale in which their networks and services have been compromised, we can only guess this is for fear of getting on the wrong side of the government. Vodafone has today become one of those which has dared to publish a Law Enforcement Disclosure Report which details the extent which government agencies have, and can, access data about its customers. 

The Guardian first reported on Vodafone’s decision to release the information. Vodafone operates in 29 countries and has fully-admitted that some countries have completely tapped the company’s mobile and landline systems. 

Wires have been connected directly to its network so agencies can listen or record live conversations and, in cases, even track the whereabouts of the participants. Vodafone writes that they have to “implement capabilities in their networks to ensure they can deliver, in real time, the actual content of the communications (for example, what is being said in a phone call, or the text and attachments within an email) plus any associated data to the monitoring centre operated by an agency or authority.” 

Due to it being unlawful in Albania, Egypt, Hungary, India, Malta, Qatar, Romania, South Africa and Turkey, Vodafone has not stated which countries specifically have the wire taps in-place. To ensure customers do not feel Vodafone is the only operator involved, the company has disclosed that other telcos are also monitored via the same system. 

The full report comes in at 40,000 words and will be released in full at some point on Friday – the one year anniversary of Snowden’s revelations. Vodafone breaks its silence in the hope that it will place pressure against the widespread abuse of phone and broadband networks to spy on citizens without due warrant. 

“In our view, it is governments – not communications operators – who hold the primary duty to provide greater transparency on the number of agency and authority demands issued to operators,” Vodafone writes in the report. 

Vodafone has caused controversy in the past with its dealings with governments. During the Egyptian revolution of 2011, for example, it sent text messages to all its Egyptian subscribers, supporting the dictatorship of President Mubarak and describing protestors as “criminals.” 

Hopefully Vodafone taking the lead in the revelation of this data will push other operators to follow and publish details of the government’s tapping of their own networks, at the very least, make the government feel more pressure to be accountable and transparent in their actions. 

What do you think about Vodafone’s government wiretapping revelations? Let us know in the comments.

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