British mobile phone outfit Vodafone has lifted the lid on the extent of state surveillance and said that the government is snooping on people just because it can.
Vodafone has issued a statement where it calls on authorities to submit to “regular scrutiny by an independent authority”, and to “amend legislation which enables agencies and authorities to access an operator’s communications infrastructure without the knowledge and direct control of the operator”.
It said that in some countries, governments have “direct” and “permanent access” to Vodafone’s infrastructure and does not have to make an interception request.
“In our view, it is governments – not communications operators – who hold the primary duty to provide greater transparency on the number of agency and authority demands issued to operators,” Vodafone said.
Vodafone said that it will continue to comply with the requests, rather than cease its operations in a country. It said that it was in a bind because if it did not comply with a lawful demand for assistance, governments can remove its license to operate, preventing it from providing services.
It looks like the UK government is particularly keen on snooping. It has made 2,760 interception requests and 514, 608 communications data requests to all mobile phone operators in 2013.
Italy made 139.962 interception requests in total and 605,601 communications requests to Vodafone alone. In the US, Verizon said it received 321,545 requests for customer information.
The report pointed out that metadata, which the spooks claim does not tell them too much about a person, can be extremely revealing.
“It is possible to learn a great deal about an individual’s movements, interest and relationships from an analysis of metadata … In many countries, agencies and authorities therefore have legal powers to order operators to disclose large volumes of this kind of communications data,” the report said.