In its submission published today, Vodafone reiterates that respect for its customers’ privacy is paramount but also recognises the importance of legitimate and lawfully authorised communications surveillance in supporting the efforts of law enforcement and intelligence agencies in tackling serious crime, terrorism and threats to national security. The company stresses that if these powers are introduced by Parliament then they must be exercised within a clear legal framework that is fit for purpose, workable and subject to the rule of law.
Vodafone also makes clear that a balance needs to be struck between protecting the UK from terrorists and criminals whilst ensuring the vast majority of law abiding members of society have the right for their private information to be protected.
In its submission, Vodafone urges the Committee to closely consider four key issues as part of its review. These are:
- Communications data should be collected and provided to Law Enforcement agencies by those companies best placed to do so, whether they are based in the UK or not; in particular third party data, such as app-based messaging, should be retained by the provider of the service in question
- Proposed powers to allow equipment interference (EI), in which service providers could be under secret obligations to operate a backdoor in the equipment or services provided to customers, need to be carefully scrutinised and, if approved by Parliament, subjected to the most rigorous oversight regime; and should never result in the overall security of a service providers network or products being diminished.
- The current oversight regime must be reformed to create a new, strong, effective and independent single body. This body should be well resourced, cover all aspects of the legislation and be capable of proper liaison with other interested regulators; and
- There must be full cost recovery for communication service providers because these activities are beyond normal business as usual activities and represent a cost to those businesses being asked to introduce them. It also acts as a restraint on the potential for excessive use of surveillance powers and contributes to accountability by ensuring that the financial impact of surveillance is apparent.
Vodafone’s submission can be viewed in full here.
Vodafone’s Law Enforcement Disclosure Report, which details Vodafone’s approach to responding to government demands for access to customer information along with a breakdown of the legal powers governments hold, can be found at www.vodafone.com/content/index/about/sustainability/law_enforcement.html