In a recently released 40,000 word document on customer privacy, transparency with regards to governments and other general personal information security, Vodafone have confirmed that some of the countries in which they operate are at liberty to eavesdrop on phone calls without notifying Vodafone.
In other words, governments, secret police agencies or any other organisations in these countries capable of spying without prosecution, could very well have already been eavesdropping on private conversations over the phone on Voda’s network.
Voda has become embroiled in the latest string of scandals relating to government spying on technology, most famously Edward Snowden’s leak which apparently implicated the American NSA in one of the biggest and most shocking eavesdropping scandals to date. Now it seems Vodafone are trying to pick up the pieces, however several governments (Turkey, Egypt, Romania, South Africa, Qatar and India) are refusing to allow the company to publish any information relating to government sanctioned wiretaps.
Whilst we must stress this doesn’t implicate these countries as being the ones who may have eavesdropped in the past, but it does go to show that we still live in an age where governments are at liberty to do as they please with regards to privacy. Vodafone are unable to directly name and shame the countries who have bypassed them in order to eavesdrop, as this would contravene laws set in place that the company agreed to when it did business with those countries.
Indeed, during the Egyptian protests during the Arab Spring in 2011, Vodafone themselves sent out text messages designed to quell unrest, in these messages they showed support for the now ousted Mubarak government (today charged with embezzlement of public funds) and branded protesters as criminals.
In this author’s opinion, it would seem like Voda’s arm was thoroughly twisted on that one. If a company is willing to be transparent about government wiretaps it would not make sense that the same company would involve itself in an international crisis. However, in the eyes of the public, at least, the report may redeem the company in the years to come.
Source – Vodafone.com