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.

 

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Lisl Brunner

Lisl Brunner is the Facilitator for the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue. Prior to this role, Lisl spent five years as a staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. She is a fluent Spanish speaker and holds a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a Bachelor’s degree from the College of William & Mary.

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