Vodafone's secret wires for govt spying

STACEY KIRK AND MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 17:37 06/06/2014

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Vodafone says 34 interception warrants were issued on its services in New Zealand last year.

The company has admitted the existence of secret wires around the world that allow government agencies to listen to all conversations on its networks.

It will publish its first Law Enforcement Disclosure Report tomorrow in an attempt to push back on governments using its broadband and phone lines to spy on citizens, British newspaper The Guardian said.

The Guardian today produced a chart that showed in 2013 there were 34 warrants for interception of its phones in New Zealand.

Ttomorrow's report from Vodafone is likely to include greater detail on New Zealand interceptions.

The Guardian report does not say which New Zealand government agencies were involved in the cases.

When asked if it would provide a similar disclosure of interceptions, Telecom New Zealand said it "assists with lawful requests for information from relevant authorities."

This is in compliance with the law.

"The only information provided is information that relates specifically to the warrant," a spokesman said.

"Our policy is to refer you to the relevant agencies for the details of those requests, however we can confirm we have received 40 requests over the last year."

Figures from the Government Communications Security Bureau show it had a total of 11 interception warrants in force for the year ended June 30, 2013. There were also 26 access authorisations in force, and 11 were issued in that same period.

Security Intelligence Service figures showed it had 34 domestic intelligence warrants in force. Of those, 22 were issued during the year, while 12 issued the previous year were still in force.

A spokeswoman from the New Zealand Intelligence Community said today that the Government did not comment on security and intelligence matters.

Vodafone told the Guardian secret wires had been connected directly to its networks around the world and those of other telecommunications groups, allowing agencies to listen to or record live conversations and, in certain cases, track the whereabouts of a customer.

Privacy campaigners said the revelations were a "nightmare scenario" that confirmed their worst fears on the extent of snooping, according to The Guardian.

In six of the countries in which Vodafone operates, the law either obliges telecommunications operators to install direct access pipes, or allows governments to do so.

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The company has not named the six countries because certain regimes could retaliate by imprisoning its staff.

The Guardian said the table on Vodafone interceptions covers 2013.

A single warrant can target hundreds of individuals and devices, but several warrants can bed used to target just one person.

"Governments count warrants in different ways and New Zealand, for example, excludes those concerning national security," the Guardian said..

Vodafone has called for all direct-access pipes to be disconnected, and for the laws that make them legal to be amended.

It said governments should "discourage agencies and authorities from seeking direct access to an operator's communications infrastructure without a lawful mandate".

Under New Zealand law, telecommunications companies must provide "full interception capability".

- Stuff

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