Phone companies have revealed the extent of Government agency
spying on their networks, with more than 70 secret wire taps
last year in New Zealand alone.
Mobile giant Vodafone last night published its first global
Law Enforcement Disclosure Report, showing phone taps were
being used in 29 countries in which it operates to listen in
to conversations on its networks.
In New Zealand, the company reported 34 warrants for
interception of phones by four Government agencies in 2013.
The police, the Security Intelligence Service, the Serious
Fraud Office and Customs all gained access to Vodafone
customers' communications last year, it said.
However, New Zealand's figure does not include those
concerning national security.
Vodafone said it was breaking its silence on government
surveillance in order to "push back" against the increasingly
widespread use of phone and broadband networks to spy on
The secret wires had been connected directly to its network
and those of other telecoms groups, Vodafone said, allowing
agencies to listen to or record live conversations and, in
certain cases, track the whereabouts of a customer.
Following the report, Telecom issued a short statement to
APNZ saying it complied with the Telecommunications
(Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013.
"We can confirm we have received 40 requests over the last
year," a spokesman said.
A single warrant could target hundreds of individuals and
devices, however several warrants could be targeted at just
New Zealand is among six countries with laws which either
oblige telecoms operators to install 'direct access pipes',
or allows governments to do so.
In its report Vodafone said: "In every country in which we
operate, we have to abide by the laws of those countries
which require us to disclose information about our customers
to law enforcement agencies or other government authorities,
or to block or restrict access to certain services.
"Refusal to comply with a country's laws is not an option."
Vodafone called for all direct-access pipes to be
disconnected, and for the laws that make them legal to be
The demands for data were "overwhelmingly related to
communications metadata", Vodafone said, adding that it also
included demands for customer details, such as name, physical
address and services subscribed.
A spokesman for the Intelligence Service said it did not
comment on intelligence or security matters.
However, its annual report said 34 domestic intelligence
warrants were in force during the year ending June 30, 2013.
Government Communications Security Bureau's figures for the
same period show a total of 11 interception warrants and 26
access authorisations were in force.
There were 84 interception device warrants granted for the
police in the 2012-13 year.
Calls to the Serious Fraud Office and Customs were not