Vodafone Details Government Requests For Communications Data

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Vodafone received legal requests fro 28 countries during 2014 and predicts role could increase as market converges

Governments of 28 countries demanded access to the content and metadata of communications on Vodafone’s networks between 1 April 2014 and 31 March, according to the operator’s latest law enforcement disclosure report.

Italian authorities submitted the most requests for metadata with 866,578, ahead of Hungary on 76,530 and Spain with 43,537, while Spanish agencies intercepted the most communications with 22,013 instances.

However most countries have denied Vodafone permission to publish their requests, including the UK. In a number of unspecified countries, governments even have direct access to Vodafone’s network so the company doesn’t even receive such requests.

Transparency report

Sir-Ernest-Harrison-VodafoneVodafone said the second edition of its transparency report is the “most comprehensive in the world”, but reiterated its belief that the governments themselves should be making the data available as they have access to all operator’s information and can add important context.

It added that it had to balance customers’ right to privacy with the local laws of the countries it operates in and acknowledged the importance of such data to national security. However it also wants surveillance laws to be updated to reflect modern communications.

“We recognise that agencies and authorities can face significant challenges in trying to protect the public from criminals and terrorists within a legislative framework that pre-dates many of the technologies that are now central to people’s daily lives,” said the Newbury-based firm. “We think, however, that many governments could do more to ensure that the legal powers relied upon by agencies and authorities are fit for the internet age.”

Future demands

Vodafone said over the top (OTT) service providers like Facebook receive many more complaints about content than operators, but this may change as the market becomes increasingly converged and operators offer combined packages of mobile, landline, broadband and television services that require them to store content on their own servers.

“Those developments would mean that operators would be in a position to exert a degree of direct editorial control over the material provided to their customers and would therefore need to develop the kind of content policies and procedures followed by OTT companies and others,” it explained.

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