Information on Country Legal Frameworks pertaining to Freedom of Expression and Privacy in Telecommunications

Freedom of expression and user privacy rights are increasingly important issues for companies across the information and communications technology (ICT) sector.  Companies participating in the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue work to respect the freedom of expression and privacy rights of their users and customers while complying with local law and protecting the safety of company personnel who may be placed at risk.  In each of the markets in which they are present, licensed telecommunications operators are bound by laws and regulations that govern how the authorities may intercept communications, obtain access to communications data, or restrict the content of communications. The pertinent legal framework may be contained in a variety of different norms and may not be subject to uniform interpretation.

In light of this complexity, and in the interest of contributing to constructive dialogue with stakeholders, the Industry Dialogue’s Guiding Principles state the aim of participating companies to compile and make available guidance and information on the main laws, regulations and standards that are applicable to licensed operators, for informational purposes.  This may provide individual users with better understanding of the laws that affect their communications.

This section of our Web site brings together information published by Vodafone Group in June of 2014 and February of 2015 and by Telenor Group in May of 2015 with new material that the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue published in June of 2015.  In addition to the aforementioned company reports covering the pertinent legal frameworks in 39 countries, the Industry Dialogue is publishing reports on five countries – Colombia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and Russia – that represent the diversity of its member companies’ global footprint.   Over time, the Industry Dialogue and its participating companies aim to expand on this resource.  Recently, TeliaSonera has done so by publishing a list of the most relevant laws on signals intelligence and real-time access to communications in 13 markets in which the company has majority-owned operations.

The information contained in this section seeks to highlight some of the most important legal powers available to government authorities seeking to access communications data or to restrict the content of communications in 44 different countries.   These powers are divided into the following six categories: 1) provision of real-time, lawful interception assistance, 2) disclosure of communications data, 3) national security and emergency powers, 4) censorship-related powers, 5) oversight of the use of these powers, and for certain countries, 6) publication of laws and aggregate data relating to lawful intercept and communications data requests.

The Industry Dialogue selected the law firm Hogan Lovells International LLP to perform its reports, using the same methodology that the firm employed in preparing reports for Vodafone Group and Telenor Group.  Hogan Lovells attorneys worked with local counsel in the five countries covered to compile and interpret the relevant laws and to present them in a manner that is accessible to all interested parties.[1]  Companies participating in the Industry Dialogue had the opportunity to review the report prior to its publication.   We would emphasize that individual countries’ legislation will not always fall neatly under one of the six categories listed above; therefore, these country reports should not be read as a comprehensive guide to all potentially relevant aspects of the law in any particular country.  However, in seeking to adopt a consistent approach across all countries, we hope they will serve as a useful framework for further analysis in the future.

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[1] Hogan Lovells has acted solely as legal adviser to the Industry Dialogue companies.  This material may not be relied upon as legal advice by any other person, and neither the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue nor Hogan Lovells accept any responsibility or liability (whether arising in tort [including negligence], contract, or otherwise) to any other person in relation to this material or its contents or any reliance which any other person may place upon it.

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