Tuesday, February 20, 2018
News Roundup

Cellphone company reveals scale of government snooping

LONDON — Government snooping into phone networks is extensive worldwide, one of the world's largest cellphone companies revealed Friday, saying that several countries demand direct access to its networks without warrant or prior notice.

The detailed report from Vodafone, which covers the 29 countries in which it operates in Europe, Africa and Asia, provides the most comprehensive look to date at how governments monitor mobile phone communications.

Wiretapping of phones and accessing of call records for law-enforcement purposes is a decades-old and accepted practice. With backing from courts, police can request cooperation from phone companies.

But Vodafone's report says that in six countries, authorities require direct access to an operator's network, bypassing warrants and eliminating the need to get case-by-case cooperation from phone-company employees.

The British-based company did not name the countries. But in an appendix to the report, it says six countries — Albania, Egypt, Hungary, Ireland, Qatar and Turkey — have provisions that allow authorities to seek unfettered access to the network.

Vodafone called for more safeguards against such access to private communications of its customers.

The report comes one year after former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden revealed that the United States and other countries' intelligence agencies routinely and indiscriminately gather and store huge amounts of data from phone calls and Internet communications.

Civil rights advocates applauded Vodafone for releasing the report, even as they expressed alarm at the infringements into civil rights. "For governments to access phone calls at the flick of a switch is unprecedented and terrifying," said Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty.

The countries included in the report are: Albania, Australia, Belgium, Britain, the Czech Republic, Congo, Egypt, Fiji, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Lesotho, Malta, Mozambique, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Tanzania and Turkey.

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