Snooping row – fundamental misunderstanding of EU law

Vodafone attacks its critics in German media

We’ve always predicted that the fall-out from the exposure of US ‘snooping’ triggered by Edward Snowden will eventually hit the mobile/cellular world. And it just has. Vodafone has just become embroiled in a row over reports in a German publication, Suddeutsche, that it had been providing details of its customers’ calls to the UK’s GCHQ [spy centre]. These allegations illustrate a fundamental misunderstanding of Vodafone’ obligations. In EU law, MNOs [Mobile Network Operators] have to pay to install systems to keep customers records for two years. Naturally MNOs therefore have to hand over such information whenever requested by the appropriate authorities.

It must be particularly galling for European MNOs to be accused of spying on their subscribers when the operators had to foot the bill for keeping such records.

In fact, the EU Data Retention Directive 2006/24/EC requires operators to store data relating to a wide range of subscriber activity for up to two years.

Indeed, operator software specialist, MACH, even put together a custom solution, TerraXDR, will provides compliance with this directive. (See here).

Hence a Vodafone spokesman told the UK’s Daily Express (here) that, “Media reports on these matters have demonstrated a misunderstanding of the basic facts of European, German and UK legislation and of the legal obligations set out within every telecommunications operator’s licence.”

“Within the European Union, the legal protections and obligations with regards to those communications are defined under relevant EU legislation.”

“Vodafone complies with the law in all of our countries of operation, including – in the case of our European businesses – the EU Privacy Directive and EU Data Retention Directive.”

Just like the furore which surrounded the revelations surrounding mobile voicemail hacking in the UK, the general public assumes that GCHQ has been listening in to consumers’ calls.

In fact, MNOS have been handing over customers’ call records which are far more damning that anything they might say.

Somebody, somewhere has forgotten to mention that all of this has been put in place so that European governments can actually trace, track down and catch genuine terrorists.

Of course, we wouldn’t want such important facts get in the way of a good story, now would we?

About Tony Dennis

Tony is currently Editor of GoMobile News. He's a veteran telecoms journalist who has previously worked for major printed and online titles. Follow him on Twitter @GoMoTweet.
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