Vodafone has updated its annual report on what it must do to comply with the law enforcement disclosures in the countries where it operates – and is considering more detailed disclosures.
Most interestingly, it has looked at publishing how often a government has asked it to intercept calls and block or intercept data.
This year’s report has added a section on network censorship, content blocking and restrictions on freedom of expression, as well as an updated country-by-country section about the number of lawful interception and/or communications demands. The timescale covered runs between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2015.
It does however, caution that counting these requests is difficult, particularly if a request is to block a website and that site jumps around IP addresses to evade the block.
The notes on interceptions have some interesting details.
For instance, regarding Ghana and Lesotho, the report says: “We have not implemented the technical requirements necessary to enable lawful interception and therefore have not received any agency or authority demands for lawful interception assistance.”
Meanwhile in Kenya, we learn: “Local operators are legally prohibited under s.31 of the Kenya Information & Communication Act from implementing the technical requirements necessary to enable lawful interception.”
In freedom-loving South Africa it’s illegal to even say that you know state wiretapping exists. New Zealand, in contrast, publishes reports on its governmental snooping.
You can divide countries into four groups: Those where Vodafone doesn’t have a “technical solution”, which means there is no wiretapping; those where the government publishes the figures; those where Vodafone publishes the figures; and those where it’s illegal to admit that it helps spies.
The report doesn’t break those down side-by-side, so we’ve done that for you. The countries where there is no technical implementation are: Belgium; Democratic Republic of Congo; France; Ghana; Kenya; Lesotho; Mozambique; and Tanzania.
Vodafone’s preferred view is that countries should publish their own data and the countries where the government publishes numbers are Australia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal and the United Kingdom. Click each country's name to open a PDF of their government's official reports into state snooping.
While it's worth noting that the ways of counting are different in different countries, so a side-by-side comparison isn’t strictly fair, the countries for which Vodafone publishes numbers are the Czech Republic (8,8582 interceptions), and Spain (22,013).
The places where Vodafone isn’t allowed to disclose what it is doing are: Albania; Egypt; Hungary; India; Malta; Qatar; Romania; South Africa; and Turkey.
The law enforcement disclosure report talks in general terms about the legal frameworks, governance principles and operating procedures associated with demands for assistance from law enforcement and intelligence agencies across 28 countries, but can be a little vague on some details.
For instance, the report says:
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.
However, in a small number of countries the law dictates that specific agencies and authorities will 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.
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