Vodafone, one of the world's largest mobile phone groups, has revealed the existence of secret wires that allow government agencies to listen to all conversations on its networks, saying they are widely used in some of the 29 countries in which it operates in Europe and beyond, The Guardian reports.
The company said 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. Privacy campaigners said the revelations were a "nightmare scenario" that confirmed their worst fears on the extent of snooping, The Guardian says.
But however disturbing the interception action, it appears to be on the light side in New Zealand, both in absolute and per capita terms, with 34 national content intercepts recorded and none in any other category, including metadata. Vodafone recorded much heavier surveillance in Australia and other territories (see table below).
Vodafone NZ had no immediate comment on the local situation.
Under the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013, government agencies in New Zealand can access telecom operators data directly.
New Zealand is one of six countries with such legislation.
For the year ending 30 June 2013, the SIS had 34 such warrants in force, while police granted 84 warrants for interception devices.
Government Communication Security Bureau (GCSB) figures show 11 interception warrants and 26 access authorisations in force.
Following the report, Telecom released a statement saying it complies with the law and confirming it has received 40 requests from government agencies in the last year.
RAW DATA: Vodafone's full report (PDF)