Vodafone releases surveillance report

Global telecommunications giant Vodafone has released a large report detailing government access, some of it direct, to its customer’s conversations and information. Vodafone said that in other countries governments can directly access customers communications information rather than going through the company.  

Egypt is included in the report – Vodafone controls around 40 percent of Egypt’s mobile phone market – but Egyptian law prevents Vodafone from disclosing figures or details on the type of surveillance the government permits.

Other countries barring details from being released include Albania, Hungary, India, Malta, Qatar, Romania, South Africa, and Turkey, according to The Guardian, citing Vodafone’s report and government laws.

Instead, Vodafone documented some of the laws regulating Egyptian telecommunications surveillance law.

Law 58 of 1937 and Law 150 of 1950 allow prosecutors or judges to issue warrants to intercept communications. Warrants can be renewed by a direct order by an authorized member of the Armed Forces of security agencies rather than a judicial official or prosecutor.

Law 10 of 2003 regulates the communications industry, the report said, adding that “The Communications Law allows broad latitude to the Armed Forces and security agencies to obtain information pursuant to national security concerns, which are not defined.”

“There is no directly applicable text in the law, but in accordance with Articles 64 and 67 of the Communications Law, the Armed Forces and national security agencies have broad latitude to intercept communications with or without an operator’s control or oversight,” the report said.

According to the Guardian report, if Vodafone disclosed Egyptian surveillance techniques, its local staff could be thrown in jail. It also said that general security forces are generally exempt from any oversight by the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority. 

On Sunday, the first reports of an interior ministry plan to survey social media communications emerged. The Ministry, according to an exclusive by the editor in chief of Al-Watan, a police- and military-friendly private daily, is setting up a “monitoring instrument” to deal with security risks in social media. These also include violations of laws that can easily be exploited to breach free-speech, such as contempt of religion, slander, spreading rumors, calling for protests, and “encouraging debauchery.”

Vodafone is partially owned by Telecom Egypt, which has shares worth just short of 45 percent of the company.

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