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Vodafone asked to spy on Irish calls

Friday, June 06 14:13:30

Mobile operator, Vodafone, today confirmed that thousands of requests to secretly track phone calls in Ireland were made over the past year.

The world's second-biggest mobile phone company also revealed government agencies in six unidentified countries use its network to listen to and record customers' calls, showing the scale of telecom eavesdropping around the world.

For Ireland, only the number of requests to Vodafone was published, with further information on surveillance refused. Ireland was unique among the countries covered in the report in that it only refused to release the data, whereas all other countries said it is illegal under their laws to do so.

The United States and Britain both came in for global scrutiny and criticism after Edward Snowden, a former contractor with the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), disclosed their vast phone, email and internet surveillance operations.

Vodafone, which has 400 million customers in countries across Europe, Africa and Asia, said in its "Disclosure Report" today that countries in its reach are using similar practices.

While most governments needed legal notices to tap into customers' communications, there were six countries where that was not the case, it said.

"In a small number of countries the law dictates that specific agencies and authorities must have direct access to an operator's network, bypassing any form of operational control over lawful interception on the part of the operator," Vodafone said.

The Vodafone report, which is incomplete because many governments will not allow it to disclose requests, also linked to already-published national data which showed Britain and Australia making hundreds of thousands of requests.

It showed that of the countries in which it operates, EU member Italy made the most requests for communication data.

Germany, which expressed outrage when it was revealed last year that U.S. intelligence services had listened into the calls of Angela Merkel, also made requests to listen in to conversations and collect the data around them, such as where the calls were made and how long they lasted.

Vodafone received no requests from the government of the United States because it does not have an operating licence there. It exited a joint mobile venture with Verizon last year.

The extent of U.S. and British surveillance was laid bare when the NSA's Snowden passed stolen secret documents to newspapers, triggering a spy scandal that caused a standoff between U.S. President Barack Obama and the Kremlin and led to calls for greater scrutiny of Western agents.