Vodafone today published a report titled “Law Enforcement Disclosure” that shows the existence of wiretaps in its network that allows some governments in the 29 countries where it operates to listen in to conversations and spy on subscribers without having to obtain a warrant. The report also shows that India is one of the few countries that make it unlawful for telecom operators to reveal any statistics or any other information with respect to government surveillance, including information whether measures to execute such surveillance exist, The Guardian reports. Also Read - Vi prepaid recharge plans July 2021: List of all Vi recharge plans under Rs 500 with benefits, validity
Vodafone is the second largest carrier in the world after China Mobile and the second largest in India after Bharti Airtel. In six countries, the carrier revealed, tapping is a legal requirement. Vodafone did not reveal the names of those countries fearing sanctions in those countries. The carrier says it has to abide by local laws in every country it operates in and not abiding by them is not an option. Also Read - Airtel vs Jio vs Vi: Best prepaid plan offering 2GB of daily data and other benefits
The scary part of the report is that some governments have set up direct-access systems in the carrier’s network that provide them the ability to snoop in on all traffic that goes through the network, without having to obtain a warrant or justify the reason for snooping on any subscriber. Also Read - FIR filed against Twitter India again, now over child pornography content
The revelation of mass surveillance by governments first came into the mainstream after Edward Snowden leaked documents related to project PRISM by the NSA in the United States last year. Since then many companies have asked the US government to let them become more transparent about the extent of government surveillance and the number of requests the government makes for making user information available. Many companies including Google and Facebook come out with half-yearly transparency reports that give statistics about the number of requests it received from various countries.
Having said that, it is imperative for the Indian government to come clear about the extent of surveillance it does on its citizens.