It is being referred to as a “nightmare scenario” by privacy advocates. Vodafone, the second largest mobile phone company in the world, says that at least six world governments have been using secret wires to listen in and record customer calls on a massive scale.
While the majority of focus in surveillance has been firmly on the US’s enormous and shocking NSA program, other countries have been just as culpable. According to a 40,000 word report by Vodafone, numerous countries require access to such wires under the law, allowing them to bypass all requests made through the actual company or courts.
Where did the wires come from? They are government installed bits of equipment installed on the Vodafone network. The mobile company has known about it since the beginning, but are now coming clean in the interest of their customers. Or, more likely, due to public backlash against tech companies that were found to have assisted in US and UK data collection in particular.
The countries are not being named officially, as that would be illegal – unlike the acquisition of the information itself. But other nations within the EU were also in the report, requesting information through official channels, albeit secretly. Italy, Australia and Britain are among the heaviest requests. Despite their vocal outrage over the use of government surveillance through the world, Germany was also named in the report.
Vodafone is not available in the US, and so no information was gathered from the NSA or other American agencies from the company. But if other governments were using such tactics, you can be sure the US was doing something similar through our own mobile providers.
Will this be enough to spark confessions from other companies on a global scale? Probably, given the power of Vodafone in particular. They are a huge corporation, supplying the majority of mobile access within 29 countries. The implications of interference through their telecom services are huge.
The most alarming thing about this report is the way it describes access by those six countries with direct patches into the network, however. They talk about the governments in question accessing data “with the flick of a switch”. It is immediate, it is complete, and it is terrifying. It has also been going on for years.
Source: The Guardian