Friday 15 December 2017

Vodafone asks to reveal phone tap data requests

Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden

Louise McBride and Nick Webb

As the world reels in the wake of the latest Edward Snowden revelations about snooping by security services, Vodafone is to put pressure on the Irish Government for the right to disclose the number of demands it receives for telephone tapping and the hand-over of customer data.

Last week, a new Snowden leak revealed that the US spy headquarters, the US National Security Agency, had collected hundreds of millions of text messages a day around the world.

In a push back against the use of telecoms networks for state surveillance, Vodafone will ask the Irish Government and the state authorities in the other countries it operates in for the right to reveal the number of demands it receives for wiretapping and customer information.

Vodafone operates in about 30 countries and has 411 million customers.

"We will be contacting governments in all markets in due course," a spokeswoman for Vodafone said last week.

It emerged last week that Vodafone will write to the British home secretary, Theresa May, and the Britain justice minister, Chris Grayling, to demand greater transparency.

Vodafone's head of privacy, Stephen Deadman, said last week that the company was standing up against state surveillance because it wanted its customers to feel that they can freely communicate with each other. "We want all our customers worldwide to feel they are at liberty to communicate with each other as they see fit," Deadman told a British newspaper last week.

"Where governments do not and will not disclose, and it is lawful for us to do so, we will disclose our own total aggregate numbers of law-enforcement demands.

"Where it is not lawful for us to disclose, we will say so and we will say what provisions of law apply."

The mobile phone giant wants to be able to reveal surveillance requests in its annual sustainability report, which is expected to be published this summer.

Internet giants Google and Facebook already reveal the number of surveillance requests they receive.

Under Irish law, the Government can authorise the tapping of phones "for the purpose of criminal investigation or in the interests of the security of the State".

The Government also has the power to prevent the public learning that it has authorised such tapping or interceptions.

Irish Independent

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