Vodafone: secret wires give governments direct access to users' data

Vodafone has made some pretty startling revelations in a new report that details how some governments have access to carriers’ data, through direct, secret wires.

The company is publishing today its first Law Enforcement Disclosure Report, and in it, it describes that in some of the countries it operates in, governments not only have direct access to users’ data, but they make wide use of these powers.

The report, released in advance to The Guardian, explains that Vodafone is not alone in this, and that in at least six of the countries where it operates, the law obliges carriers to install direct access pipes to their data centers, or at least gives governments the power to do so.

The report mentions that these governments are allowed, through separate and direct wires, to intercept, listen and record users’ conversations. They also have the power to gather location data and call metadata, such as who you’re calling, duration of a call and so on. And all this happens without warrants.

In some countries, including but not limited to Egypt, Hungary, Romania, Turkey, Malta and India, disclosing information about government spying is illegal in itself, so Vodafone has elected to not disclose the countries where widespread spying is happening, due to the fact that its employees could be jailed.

These revelations comes as another blow to privacy, free speech and democracy. Following more than an year of leaks from Edward Snowden on the state of surveillance on the internet, these new disclosures prove once again that our every move is carefully monitored, even offline.

Source: The Guardian | Vodafone Store image via Shutterstock

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34 Comments

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quote "In some countries, including but not limited to Egypt, Hungary, Romania, Turkey, Malta and India, disclosing information about government spying is illegal in itself, so Vodafone has elected to not disclose the countries where widespread spying is happening, due to the fact that its employees could be jailed."

Couldn't they have disclosed the list of countries excluding those where it's illegal to do so? ......unless they match of course ;-)

adam.mt said,
quote "In some countries, including but not limited to Egypt, Hungary, Romania, Turkey, Malta and India, disclosing information about government spying is illegal in itself, so Vodafone has elected to not disclose the countries where widespread spying is happening, due to the fact that its employees could be jailed."

Couldn't they have disclosed the list of countries excluding those where it's illegal to do so? ......unless they match of course ;-)

It's best not to play games of "letter of the law" in countries where the law is not as set in stone as the west. Also, the could find next time they are up for a review, have their licenses revoked.

Not news to me seeing as I was part of the team that set the Government servers up in T-Mobile's server room in Hatfield, UK.

Most of you simply haven't a clue what they do with their access and what telco's are required to keep and make available.

Steve121178 said,
Not news to me seeing as I was part of the team that set the Government servers up in T-Mobile's server room in Hatfield, UK.

Most of you simply haven't a clue what they do with their access and what telco's are required to keep and make available.

I'm just glad that this sort of information is slowly becoming public. I guess it's only the tip of the iceberg so far too. Pretty terrifying.

Steve121178 said,
Not news to me seeing as I was part of the team that set the Government servers up in T-Mobile's server room in Hatfield, UK.

Most of you simply haven't a clue what they do with their access and what telco's are required to keep and make available.


I was under the impression that the T-Mobile here was just a call centre haha, the more you know.

n_K said,

I was under the impression that the T-Mobile here was just a call centre haha, the more you know.

No, the call centre was in Greenock in Scotland & later moved to Hungary or Poland I think.

Hatfield in the corporate HQ. In one of the buildings, one of the floors has a dedicated 'crime' squad staffed entirely by the police force who work with their T-Mob (now EE) colleagues.

The Government servers sit in the same server room as T-Mobile's servers and sit in a cage so T-Mobile (sorry, EE) staff cannot touch them. The Government has full access to everything. They see everything 'live'.

Every network operator has to agree to this or they won't get an operators license. The same goes for ISP's and any other company that has data the government wants.

And every single SMS message you have ever sent in your life is archived and permanently stored. Text messages were supposed to be deleted after 6 years, but the data is kept permanently. Obviously the same goes for your e-mails (The likes of Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Facebook etc are all on-board with this).

surreyguy said,
Why do we even bother with a DPA.

DPA applies to businesses and people, not the government.

I can honestly say that I think every telco in the world does this to some degree. I'd be really surprised if they didn't.

Vodafone? Does this include Verizon back when they had a big stake in Verizon wireless in the USA until not that long ago?

I'm encouraged most are outraged over this and other discoveries, especially in democratic nations. People do have power when they're willing to stand up and are willing to make the sacrifice. I feel sorry for the defeatists and can't decide if I'm angry or just disappointed in those who are complacent. You do your countries a disservice when you offer silly "meh" statements or try to influence others to give up with you.

Hahaiah said,
I'm encouraged most are outraged over this and other discoveries, especially in democratic nations. People do have power when they're willing to stand up and are willing to make the sacrifice. I feel sorry for the defeatists and can't decide if I'm angry or just disappointed in those who are complacent. You do your countries a disservice when you offer silly "meh" statements or try to influence others to give up with you.

"meh."

Well since the cables were hidden and likely not park of normal security checks and measures. now that a terrorist knows this information they can also use the cables :D.

Wonder how many security holes are created in big business's due to NSA spying. If anything by trying to stop Terrorists they are also not only spying on everyone unneeded but they are creating big security risks that could effect everyone.

The definition of terrorist is the key word here, governments consider their own people terrorists simply because they fight back against tyranny. So in a sense they're absolutely correct, but too many people still buy into the whole fake ware on terror and it offers the perfect cover to do whatever they want. Just ask yourself, who are you more fearful of right now? Tell you what, I'm willing to take my chances with "terrorists" and keep my freedom thank you.

I live in the north of Ireland and the British government has/had been snooping on us for decades and listening to phone calls and more, nothing new really.

army checkpoints and mountain top observation towers and bases. so Meh....

testman said,
ISWYDT - a republican, eh? ;) j/k

but yeah, it's hardly a surprise, really.

well I ain't british, lets put it that way. :D

am non political truth be told.

I think you're stuck in the past, there hasn't been British troops on hilltops or checkpoints in Northern Ireland in years, you're blowing that out of proportion.

never said they where still there, was just mentioning that they where there. being surveilled is nothing new to folks over here.

governments always have and always will, want to keep an eye on the populace.

Dermot said,
I think you're stuck in the past, there hasn't been British troops on hilltops or checkpoints in Northern Ireland in years, you're blowing that out of proportion.

Not needed now they have direct lines into Vodaphone :p

That's exactly the short sighted type of thinking that brought us here. And tell that to the over 48.000 political prisoners in Egypt.

Unless you're a member of a political group your government doesn't like, then who cares?

Like in Egypt, just don't oppose the military coup, or support democracy in China and you won't have any issues!

The_Decryptor said,
Unless you're a member of a political group your government doesn't like, then who cares?

Like in Egypt, just don't oppose the military coup, or support democracy in China and you won't have any issues!

You're sarcastic, right?

tomcoleman said,
unless your a terrorist who gives a ######

Is funny but i think that terrorists and mafia avoid to use cellphones. So the question is : who are they spying?