Section 63 of the electoral decree prohibits people from communicating political messages by telephone, internet, email, social media or other electronic means 48 hours before polling opens and there is wide concern the regime will tap phones and monitor internet to prevent breaches.Vodafone has previously denied it has the facilities to monitor calls and text messages, insisting it can only access phone records via police or court warrant.
It has also said there is no legislation in place which would allow for telecom operators to intercept text messages, phone calls or internet messages.
The Guardian newspaper report, however, says Vodafone has revealed ‘wires had been connected directly to its network and those of other telecoms groups, allowing agencies to listen to or record live conversations and, in certain cases, track the whereabouts of a customer.’
Concerns about phone and internet monitoring in FIji is not new. The subject has come up before on this blog, including revelations from former 3FIR commander, Roko Ului Mara, who says the regime started tapping phones in 2007.
Mara said both Connect and Vodafone do it, but Vodafone was the worst. Others have attested also that the regime uses experts from both India and China to spy on Fiji citizens, especially its critics.
Vodafone reveals existence of secret wires
Vodafone admits “direct access” wiretaps by some governments
Cellular behemoth Vodafone has revealed that a number of governments have “direct access” to its network, collecting mass surveillance on users and allowing them to listen in on calls among other things. The revelation was detailed in the carrier’s first Law Enforcement Disclosure Report, a 40,000 word breakdown of what Vodafone is – and isn’t – allowed to say about the monitoring and tracking requirements it faces from agencies like the NSA.
The new report covers 29 of the operating which are directly controlled by Vodafone, including three joint ventures, in Australia, Kenya and Fiji), in which the carrier has been issued with a lawful demand from a law enforcement agency or government authority. It covers a period between April 1st, 2013 and March 31st, 2014.
However, the telecoms firm is limited by exactly what it can, and can’t, reveal about each country’s policies. In some, for instance, even disclosing that the of wiretapping calls and messaging is prohibited.
Most concerning to privacy activists, however, is the fact that in around six countries, Vodafone is required to hand over direct access to its network to governments and security agencies. The carrier either has to provide its own direct access, or permit the government itself access to the infrastructure to install it.
With that access, every call and message can supposedly be monitored, if the security services see fit, without the need for individual warrants from courts. Vodafone has not named the locations in which direct access has been installed.
Although the document is primarily a data driven one, Vodafone also uses the opportunity to criticize privacy laws, the extent to which they allow surveillance, and their inconsistencies between jurisdictions. There is “very little coherence and consistency in law and agency and authority practice,” the carrier points out, “even between neighboring EU Member States.”