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Vodafone reveals global scale of governments’ phone surveillance

People walk past a Vodafone shop in London, on Friday, June 6, 2014.(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

LONDON: Vodafone, the world’s second-biggest mobile phone company, has revealed that government agencies in six unidentified countries use its network to listen to and record customers’ calls, showing the scale of telecoms eavesdropping around the world.

The United States and Britain both came in for global scrutiny and criticism after Edward Snowden, a former contractor with the U.S. National Security Agency, disclosed their vast phone, email and Internet surveillance operations.

Vodafone, which has 400 million customers across Europe, Africa and Asia, said in its “Disclosure Report” Friday that other countries are using similar practices.

While most governments needed legal notices to tap customers’ communications, there were six countries where that was not the case, it said.

“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 did not name the six for legal reasons.

The report, which is incomplete because many governments will not allow it to disclose requests, also linked to already-published national data that showed Britain and Australia making hundreds of thousands of requests.

Of the countries in which it operates, Italy made the most requests for communication data.

Germany, which expressed outrage when it was revealed last year that U.S. intelligence services had listened into the calls of Chancellor Angela Merkel, also made requests to listen in to conversations and collect the data around them, such as where the calls were made and how long they lasted.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 07, 2014, on page 9.

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