Industry Dialogue releases resource on 44 countries’ laws on freedom of expression and privacy in telecommunications

By Annette Fergusson


A little over a year ago, Vodafone Group published its first Law Enforcement Disclosure Report, accompanied by a Legal Annexe which describes some of the most important powers available to government agencies and authorities seeking to access customer communications. Vodafone subsequently updated the Annexe to include information on censorship related powers, and ID members Telenor Group and TeliaSonera have made available information on the legal frameworks in many of their markets.

Now, the Industry Dialogue is pleased to build on this work by publishing reports on five countries – Colombia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and Russia – that represent the diversity of its companies’ global footprint.   We are combining this information with the reports that have already been published in one online resource, which we hope will be useful to civil society organisations, academics, investors, and others who study the norms regulating government access to communications and capacity to restrict content.

Looking at the letter of these laws, some of the challenges facing our companies become apparent. Many countries lack a clear and transparent legal framework regarding government restriction of the content of communications and access to communications data. Provisions for adequate, independent oversight of these powers are also often absent. As a condition of operating in certain countries, governments may also require unrestricted direct access into companies’ infrastructure for the purpose of interception of communications and/or access to communications related data, leaving the company without any operational or technical control of its technology.

At the same time, the reports reveal good practices in terms of clarity, oversight, and access to remedy. We took the opportunity to highlight some of these good policy practices during a panel discussion at the 2015 Freedom Online Conference. We also welcome your efforts to highlight more good practices or to compare and analyze these legal frameworks, and for that reason, all of this information is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license (CC BY-SA 4.0). We will do our best as individual companies and as a group to build on this resource and to update it periodically.

In the coming weeks, we will be presenting this resource to experts and stakeholders, starting with a discussion to take place during our quarterly meeting in London on July 1. We invite you to send us your feedback, questions, and opportunities to carry the conversation forward.


Telecommunications Industry Dialogue welcomes new report by UN Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression


The Telecommunications Industry Dialogue welcomes the new report by UN Special Rapporteur for freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, which was released on 28 May 2015 and will be presented to the Human Rights Council at its 29th session in June.  The report addresses encryption and anonymity in digital communications and makes a number of recommendations to states, international organizations, civil society, and the private sector.


When advising corporate actors to ensure that their practices are consistent with human rights norms, Mr. Kaye indicates that “At a minimum, companies should adhere to principles such as those laid out in the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the Global Network Initiative’s Principles on Freedom of Expression and Privacy, . . . and the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue Guiding Principles.”  The Industry Dialogue is pleased to be highlighted as a good practice and reiterates its desire to welcome new members in the telecommunications industry to its group, as well as to continue its proactive dialogue with key stakeholders.


The Telecommunications Industry Dialogue participates in the Freedom Online Conference in Mongolia

Chinggis Khan

On May 4 and 5, 2015, the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue attended the fifth Freedom Online Conference in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia with over 200 representatives of government, civil society, academia, and industry. Since the Industry Dialogue was launched in 2013, it has been an active participant in the Freedom Online Coalition. ID Board members have spoken at Freedom Online Conferences, taken part in consultations with government members, and joined the recently created Working Group 2 on Digital Development and Openness.

In Mongolia, the plenary sessions demonstrated that the right to privacy in the digital age remains a critical piece of discussions regarding online freedom. Government and civil society speakers highlighted the role of ICT companies in enabling the exchange of ideas and access to information, a well as the responsibility of those companies to respect users’ rights as outlined in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.   Participants also emphasized that discussions of laws and policies that affect online freedom should be characterized by multi-stakeholder participation and informed by international human rights standards.

The Industry Dialogue organized a workshop on Good Policy Practices in Online Freedom, which featured Judith Lichtenberg, Executive Director of the Global Network Initiative, Dr. Katrin Nyman-Metcalf, Head of the Chair of Law and Technology at Tallinn Law School, and Brett Solomon, Executive Director of Access. ID Facilitator Lisl Brunner served as moderator, and the panel featured information on the legal frameworks that apply to government access to communications data published by Vodafone Group and TeliaSonera. Telenor Group has recently built on this body of work, and the Industry Dialogue plans to release information on the legal frameworks of five additional countries in the ID companies’ global footprint it in the coming weeks. All of these resources will also be compiled on the Industry Dialogue Web site.

During the workshop, panelists cited examples of good policy practice regarding the conduct of lawful interception, access to communications metadata, and oversight mechanisms for the use of these powers. Lisl also took part in open and closed working group sessions that aim to define the scope of work and priorities of the Digital Development and Openness group, and she engaged with a range of stakeholders on the Industry Dialogue’s progress and priorities.


My reflections as Chair of the Industry Dialogue

We are proud of our progress, but more needs to be done.

by Christine Diamente, Chair of the Industry Dialogue (Alcatel-Lucent)

On a very sunny April 13th 2015 in Paris, Alcatel-Lucent had the immense pleasure of hosting the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue’s (Telecoms ID) quarterly meeting. Telecoms ID is a group of nine operators and vendors who jointly address freedom of expression and privacy rights in the telecommunications sector in the context of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

UN Forum 2(2)

Industry Dialogue participates in the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights

For the first time, the Industry Dialogue took part in the Third Annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights from 1-3 December in Geneva, Switzerland.  Facilitator Lisl Brunner spoke about the Industry Dialogue at panel on The Right to Privacy in the Digital Age, focusing on challenges facing telecommunications companies as they seek to respect user privacy and progress that companies have made in implementing the ID Guiding Principles in this respect.


Industry Dialogue participates in SIDA Development Talks

The Industry Dialogue was pleased to participate in “ICT – Threat and Opportunity for Human Rights,” an event organized by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) as part of its Development Talks series.   The November 14 event had a record attendance of over 130 participants and included speakers from Access, Civil Rights Defenders, the Institute for Human Rights and Business, Privacy International, Ranking Digital Rights, and SIDA.


Follow us on Twitter @IndustryDialog