The world’s second-largest mobile company on Friday published a lengthy transparency report on government surveillance in 29 countries where it operates calling for an end to some spying that occurs when nations directly tap networks through secret wires.
This report comes a day after the tech industry commemorated the anniversary of Edward Snowden’s press leaks about surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency. Vodafone’s orelease is the first global report of its kind.
Vodafone’s country-by-country report tallies the amount of data requests sought by various countries, and explains the legal procedures governing officials’ access to the data. The three countries that made the most requests specifically listed in the Vodafone report were Tanzania and Italy.Secrecy laws or demands from authorities in some countries prevented Vodafone from revealing information, but the company said six unidentified countries can use its network to listen to and record customers’ calls.
“Our customers have a right to privacy which is enshrined in international human rights law and standards and enacted through national laws,” Vodafone said in its report. “Respecting that right is one of our highest priorities.”
“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,” Vodafone said.
Vodafone was unable to give a complete picture of surveillance conducted by governments in part because countries measure requests for data differently, as a warrant for information can sometimes target numerous people. Because of this, Vodafone called for governments, not companies, to publish their requests for user data.
“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,” the company said.
“If we do not comply with a lawful demand for assistance, governments can remove our license to operate, preventing us from providing services to our customers,” the company said. “Our employees who live and work in the country concerned may also be at risk of criminal sanctions, including imprisonment.”