Vodafone, one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world has admitted the existence of secret “pipes” used by the secret agencies of various governments allowing them to hear all the conversations that take place on their networks. According to the operator, these “pipes” are widely used in some European countries in which it operates.
The company has broken its silence on surveillance by governments with the objective of to step back in the increasingly widespread use of the telephone networks and broadband for spying citizens, making it published a 20-page report today, entitled “Law Enforcement Disclosure Report“. The paper explain in detail how governments monitor and intercept users calls and data.
According to the company, the “pipes” are made directly to its networks and other telecommunications groups, allowing agencies to listen and record live conversations and, in some cases, track the location of a user.
“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. We need to debate how we are balancing the needs of law enforcement with the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens,” said Stephen Deadman, responsible for security and privacy of Vodafone.
Several privacy advocates and control critical areas of the NSA have claimed that these revelations confirm that this is the worst case scenario on this controversial topic.
Vodafone began working on the report last autumn, in the wake of the first Snowden leaks about government spying. Meanwhile, the Guardian has published a summary table with the total interceptions made by countries.
“These are the nightmare scenarios that we were imagining. I never thought the telcos would be so complicit. It’s a brave step by Vodafone (to admit it) and hopefully the other telcos will become more brave with disclosure, but what we need is for them to be braver about fighting back against the illegal requests and the laws themselves,” Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International, which has brought legal action against the British government over mass surveillance, told the Guardian.
Photo Credit: Simon Dawson (Bloomberg)