Some governments have direct access to Vodafone networks

Telecommunications giant Vodafone has released its first-ever Law Enforcement Disclosure Report, and among the things revealed in it is the scary fact that some countries have direct and permanent access to the company’s servers and to customer communications via their own direct link.

“In most countries, governments have powers to order communications operators to allow the interception of customers’ communications,” they noted. “Lawful interception is one of the most intrusive forms of law enforcement assistance, and in a number of countries agencies and authorities must obtain a specific lawful interception warrant in order to demand assistance from an operator.”

“In most countries, Vodafone maintains full operational control over the technical infrastructure used to enable lawful interception upon receipt of an agency or authority demand,” they shared. However, 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. In those countries, Vodafone will not receive any form of demand for lawful interception access as the relevant agencies and authorities already have permanent access to customer communications via their own direct link.”

The company has not revealed which particular countries these are, as the local law also prohibits them to share that information.

“If we do not comply with a lawful demand for assistance, governments can remove our licence to operate, preventing us from providing services to our customers. Our employees who live and work in the country concerned may also be at risk of criminal sanctions, including imprisonment,” they say. “We therefore have to balance our responsibility to respect our customers’ right to privacy against our legal obligation to respond to the authorities’ lawful demands as well as our duty of care to our employees, recognising throughout our broader responsibilities as a corporate citizen to protect the public and prevent harm.”

The report covers the period from April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014, and encompasses all 29 operating businesses in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia Pacific directly controlled by Vodafone.

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