Telecom operators Airtel, Idea Cellular, Reliance Communications, Tata Docomo, etc. should disclose if Indian government is tapping directly into their network without / with company consent to access user data and intercept calls or obtain Web-browser records.
This kind of transparency from Indian mobile operators is important because Vodafone Global’s report on June 6 – saying 29 governments from Albania to the U.K. requested access to the company’s network — already spurred a new round of protests by privacy advocates about the scope of surveillance. Indian political parties including CPI had asked the BJP government to share more details. Vodafone received such requests from India as well.
Earlier, global telecom carriers such as AT&T and Deutsche Telekom have published similar reports. Vodafone Group Plc is the second largest telecom operator with more than 400 million customers worldwide – behind China Mobile.
Indian bureaucrats earlier blamed Chinese telecom network vendors Huawei and ZTE, which supply mobile equipments to Indian telecoms including the state-run BSNL, for their alleged connection with China administration or military.
Indian telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is yet to comment on the situation. It is time for Indian telecom department to share details if they are tapping telecom networks of mobile service providers. If yes, they should disclose the purpose and extend of tapping.
Vodafone is among the first to reveal that some governments have direct links to its communications systems, without going through the company or a legal review process.
While in most countries Vodafone maintains full operational control over the infrastructure used to enable lawful interception, in a small number of countries the law dictates that authorities have direct access to an operator’s network, Vodafone said.
Six nations have direct access to Vodafone’s network. Vodafone does not share name of countries which have direct access.
Several nations covered by the report, including Egypt, India and Turkey, forbid disclosing what type and how many requests carriers receive from authorities. Vodafone said it doesn’t comply with demands that are unlawful, Bloomberg reported.
In Germany, Deutsche Telekom last month published numbers on data handed over to authorities. The country’s top prosecutor is set to start a formal investigation into whether U.S. intelligence agents tapped Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone.
According to a Bloomberg report, U.S. President Barack Obama in March said that the U.S. can stop collecting and storing bulk telephone, e-mail and Internet usage records without compromising national security. Both he and Congress have been under pressure to restrain U.S. spying since Snowden leaked documents exposing the surveillance programs to select newspapers.