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Vodafone reports several governments can listen in on calls and track phone locations

News by Andrew Kameka on Friday June 06, 2014.

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Government agencies in various countries are able to tap into mobile networks with relative ease, allowing them to listen to phone conversations and monitor the data users transfer without seeking approval from or notifying carriers. Former defense contractor Edward Snowden made those claims related to the US government, and now multinational telecommunications firm Vodafone has reported that it deals with those issues in some of the countries in which it operates.

According to a Vodafone report covered by The Wall Street Journal, governments in six countries have the ability to directly tap into Vodafone's networks and listen to live conversations. Some of those governments are also able to obtain web browsing history and track a phone's physical location without having to make requests for information from the network operator. The agencies have wires that connect to Vodafone and their own monitoring networks that removes the need to make requests.

Vodafone did not name the specific countries in which this activity takes place because it is illegal to disclose wiretapping information in 9 of the 29 countries that it operates. Those countries that ban revealing wiretap information are Albania, Egypt, Hungary, India, Malta, Qatar, Romania, South Africa and Turkey. Vodafone's report states only six countries have direct access, but there's no way of knowing which of those countries have direct access or if it may be other nations that don't have anti-disclosure laws but still spy on consumers.

The issue is also not contained simply to Vodafone. Governments require cooperation of all carriers operating in those countries, according to the report. Though the company says it wants to respect privacy, he has no choice if it wishes to stay in business. A statement says:

"Refusal to comply with a country's laws is not an option. If we do not comply with a lawful demand for assistance, governments can remove our license to operate, preventing us from providing services to our customers."

source: The Wall Street Journal

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Andrew Kameka
Andrew is based in Miami, Florida.

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