Vodafone reveals that governments are collecting personal data without limits

Vodafone reveals that governments are collecting personal data without limits

The world’s second largest cellular carrier Britain’s Vodafone says many countries have unfettered access to private communications. (Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters)
BY CRAIG TIMBERG June 6 at 10:47 PM
Britain’s Vodafone revealed Friday that several governments are collecting surveillance data directly from its networks without any legal review and publicly urged more safeguards against such unfettered access to the private communications of its customers.The declarations, made by the world’s second-largest cellular carrier, show that the type of access to telecommunications networks enjoyed by the U.S. National Security Agency also occurs in other countries where legal protections almost certainly are lower. Vodafone’s networks span much of Europe and parts of Africa and Asia.

The company said that voice, Internet and other data could be collected without any court review in “a small number” of nations. Although the company does not name them, news reports suggested that one is Britain, whose GCHQ intelligence agency is a close partner of the NSA in filtering the world’s Internet traffic.

“It is a healthy reminder that no amount of legal reform in the United States will solve the problem if there isn’t an international solution,” said Peter Eckersley, director of technology projects for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group that is based in San Francisco.

Vodafone’s statements, coming in the company’s first report on data demands made by authorities in the countries where it operates, were unusually pointed, detailed and sober by the standards of the “transparency reports” issued by a growing number of companies since the revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The Vodafone report includes an 88-page annex detailing laws and experiences in 29 nations where, collectively, government agencies have made millions of data requests of the company.

In several of those countries — South Africa, Turkey, Egypt and others — publishing even such rudimentary totals of requests are prohibited by law. The report merely summarizes the legal standards there rather than quantifying the extent of government data collection.

“Refusal to comply with a country’s laws is not an option,” the company said in its report. “If we do not comply with a lawful demand for assistance, governments can remove our licence to operate, preventing us from providing services to our customers. Our employees who live and work in the country concerned may also be at risk of criminal sanctions, including imprisonment.”

Privacy advocates praised Vodafone for issuing such a thorough report but expressed dismay about the revelations of “direct access” that allowed governments to intercept any communication without seeking a court order or making a formal request to the company. Governments could use such access to collect increasingly massive troves of personal information — voice calls, e-mails, video chats, search histories and online address books — without any form of oversight.

“This is the kind of practice that needs to end,” said Eric King of Privacy International, an activist group based in London.

Governments have been gaining increasingly intrusive access to communications for at least two decades, when the United States and other nations began passing laws requiring that powerful surveillance capabilities be built directly into emerging technologies, such as cellular networks and Internet-based telephone systems.

Those demands became even more forceful in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when intelligence agencies scrambled to prevent a similar tragedy. A burgeoning surveillance industry, with regular conferences around the world, grew to meet the well-funded appetite for gathering information on criminals and possible terrorist threats.

Such systems can collect and analyze almost any information, including the content of most phone calls, that flows over the Internet when it’s not encrypted. As a result, governments can learn virtually anything people in their nations say or do online and frequently can learn where they are using location tracking, which is built into most cellular networks.

The Vodafone report distinguishes between content — words or other information conveyed over its networks — and meta­data, which reveals who is contacting whom and what kinds of communications systems they are using.

Metadata tends to be more useful in establishing relationships among surveillance targets and, even in countries with rigorous frameworks for protecting personal information, can be gathered more readily by governments with a lower legal standard.

In the Czech Republic, for example, the government compelled Vodafone to turn over the content of conversations 7,677 times during the 12-month reporting period, from April 2013 to March 2014. Hungary collected metadata 75,938 times. Italy, with its government investigations into organized crime, led the Vodafone list with 605,601 demands for metadata.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper, relying on documents provided by Snowden, reported last year on GCHQ’s Tempora Program, in which the British intelligence agency taps into the fiber-optic cables that carry much of the world’s Internet traffic — the kind of “direct access” that Vodafone’s report argues should be curbed.

American technology and telecommunications companies have been scrambling to protect their reputations in the year since Snowden’s revelations began appearing in news reports by The Washington Post and the Guardian.

U.S.-based technology companies such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook have adopted new encryption measures, demanded more latitude to report on government data requests and lobbied Washington for legal curbs on surveillance.

Big telecommunications providers, such as Verizon and AT&T, have been less assertive in their responses, although both companies over the past year have issued their own “transparency reports,” for the first time tallying up government data requests.

Verizon listed 320,000 requests in the United States in 2013 and several thousand collectively in 11 other nations. AT&T listed more than 300,000 requests. (Vodafone was a partner of Verizon in the largest U.S. cellular network, Verizon Wireless, before selling its share to Verizon this year.)

The close relationship between the NSA, the FBI and major telecommunications companies long has been a sore point with privacy advocates.

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, based in Washington, said the Vodafone report “underscores the much closer relationship between communications providers, both in the United States and outside the United States, with national intelligence agencies. . . . It’s time to rebuild the wall separating church and state in surveillance.”

Eckersley said that most global telecommunications companies are “handmaidens of their governments’ surveillance apparatuses,” and he expressed little hope for a global treaty. Only new technical solutions capable of thwarting even the most aggressive intelligence agencies could significantly curb the spying of the Internet, he said.


Read more here- http://m.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/governments-collecting-personal-data-without-limit-says-vodafone/2014/06/06/ff0cfc1a-edb4-11e3-9b2d-114aded544be_story.html?wpisrc=nl_hdtop

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Odisha – Initiate Action against Vedanta

Kondh Lady

Kondh Lady (Photo credit: ramesh_lalwani)


By Express News Service – BHUBANESWAR

Published: 23rd March 2014


The State Government has directed the Pollution Control Board and the Jharsuguda district collector to take appropriate action against Vedanta Aluminium for causing pollution and damage to agricultural land.

The Government directive came in response to a written complaint by former member of Rajya Sabha Kishore Mohanty alleging pollution and damage to agricultural land by the ash pond created by Vedanta Aluminim near Katikela village in Jharsuguda district.

Meanwhile, a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Committee for Legal Aid to Poor (CLAP) on behalf of petitioners Budharam Patel and others seeking a ban on establishment of the ash pond on agricultural land at Kumudapalli village is pending in the Odisha High Court.

READ MOR EHERE — http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/Initiate-Action-against-Vedanta-Govt/2014/03/23/article2125527.ece#.Uy7DI_ldUpo



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Canada – Every Year Nestlé Waters extracts 265 million litres of fresh water for free #WTFnews

The price of a litre of bottled water in B.C. is often higher than a litre of gasoline.

However, the price paid by the world’s largest bottled water company for taking 265 million litres of fresh water every year from a well in the Fraser Valley — not a cent.

Because of B.C.’s lack of groundwater regulation, Nestlé Waters Canada — a division of the multi-billion-dollar Switzerland-based Nestlé Group, the world’s largest food company — is not required to measure, report, or pay a penny for the millions of litres of water it draws from Hope and then sells across Western Canada.

According to the provincial Ministry of Environment, “B.C. is the only jurisdiction in Canada that doesn’t regulate groundwater use.”


“The province does not license groundwater, charge a rental for groundwater withdrawals or track how much bottled water companies are taking from wells,” said a Ministry of Environment spokesperson in an email to The Province.

This isn’t new. Critics have been calling for change for years now, saying the lack of groundwater regulation is just one outdated example from the century-old Water Act.

The Ministry of Environment has said they plan — in the 2014 legislature sitting — to introduce groundwater regulation with the proposed Water Sustainability Act, which would update and replace the existing Water Act, established in 1909. But experts note that successive governments have been talking about modernizing water for decades, but the issue keeps falling off the agenda.

This time, many hope it will be different.

“It’s really the Wild West out here in terms of groundwater. And it’s been going on for over 20 years, that the Ministry of Environment, the provincial government has been saying that they’re going to make these changes, and it just hasn’t gone through yet,” said Linda Nowlan, conservation director from World Wildlife Fund Canada.


In the District of Hope, Nestlé’s well draws from the same aquifer relied upon by about 6,000 nearby residents, and some of them are concerned.

“We have water that’s so clean and so pure, it’s amazing. And then they take it and sell it back to us in plastic bottles,” said Hope resident Sharlene Harrison-Hinds.

Sheila Muxlow lives in nearby Chilliwack, downstream the Fraser River from Hope. As campaign director for the WaterWealth Project, she often hears from Hope residents who worry about the government’s lack of oversight with Nestlé’s operations there.

“It’s unsettling,” Muxlow said. “What’s going to happen in the long term, if Nestlé keeps taking and taking and taking?”

While Nestlé is the largest bottled water seller in B.C., others, including Whistler Water and Mountain Spring Water, also draw groundwater from B.C.

When asked by The Province, those companies declined to release the volume of their withdrawals.

RELATED STORY  – Nestlé’s – Cut back on water take during droughts is not in the public interest.


Nestlé is one of the largest employers in the District of Hope, providing about 75 jobs, said District of Hope chief administrative officer John Fortoloczky. Though Nestlé is not required to measure and report their water withdrawals to the government, the company voluntarily reports to the District of Hope, said a Nestlé Waters Canada executive, reached in Guelph, Ont. last week.

“What we do in Hope exceeds what is proposed by the province of British Columbia,” said John Challinor, Nestlé Waters Canada’s director of corporate affairs. Nestle keeps records of water quality and the company’s mapping of the underground water resources in the area exceeds what government scientists have done, Challinor said.

“We do these annual reports … We’re doing it voluntarily with (the local government). If we are asked to provide it as a condition of a new permit, that’s easy to do, because we’re already doing it,” Challinor said.


But the fact that Nestlé’s reports are internal and voluntary is the very issue of concern, said Ben Parfitt, a resource policy analyst with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

“There’s a big, big difference between voluntary reporting and mandatory,” said Parfitt. “If it’s voluntary, there’s nothing to stop a company or major water user from choosing not to report … That is absolutely critical. You can’t run a system like this on a voluntary basis.”

Since groundwater remains unregulated in B.C., Nestle does not require a permit for the water they withdraw.

“No permit, no reporting, no tracking, no nothing,” said David Slade, co-owner of Drillwell Enterprises, a Vancouver Island well-drilling company. “So you could drill a well on your property, and drill it right next to your neighbour’s well, and you could pump that well at 100 gallons a minute, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and waste all the water, pour it on the ground if you wanted to … As far as depleting the resource, or abusing the resource, there is no regulation. So it is the Wild, Wild West.”


The Council of Canadians, a national citizen advocacy group, takes the position that water should be treated as apublic trust, a valuable resource protected for the benefit of all Canadians.

But when the government allows a multi-billion dollar, international corporation to withdraw water for free to sell back to us, this doesn’t seem to serve the public good, said Emma Lui, national water campaigner for the Council of Canadians, reached in Ottawa. Compared with the rest of the country, Lui said, “When you look at all these different factors, B.C. actually is doing quite poorly: that they don’t include groundwater (in their water licensing system), they don’t have any sort of public registry of who’s taking groundwater, they don’t charge.”

Nestlé is far from the only large company withdrawing B.C.’s groundwater for free, and Challinor said Nestlé is

HOPE, BC -- August  12,  2013 --  Sheila Muxlow has concerns about Nestle withdrawing millions of litres of water without payment, outside Nestle's bottling plant near Hope on August 12, 2013.

“largely supportive of what the government is trying to do” with modernizing the Water Act. He said he plans to sit down with B.C.’s new environment minister Mary Polak in the fall, to discuss these issues. Nestle supports the government moving toward increased regulation, monitoring and reporting.

As far as the government charging for groundwater, Challinor said “We have no problem with paying for water, as long as the price is based on the actual cost of regulating the program.”

If you walk into Cooper’s Foods in downtown Hope — less than 5 km away from Nestlé’s bottling plant — and buy a 1.5 litre bottle of Nestlé Pure Life water, it will set you back $1.19.

That’s $1.19 more than Nestle paid to the government last year for withdrawing more than 265 million litres of fresh water from the well.

Nestlé’s other water bottling plant in Canada is in Wellington County, Ont., where the province requires them to buy a licence and pay for the water they extract. Some critics, including Lui and Parfitt, feel that Ontario’s charge of $3.71 per million litres is still too paltry. But still, they say, it’s more fair than B.C. charging nothing.

source– http://westcoastnativenews.com/

ALSO READ: Nestle-is-sucking-an-ontario-town-dry-for-bottled-water/

AND READ: Harper’s water privatization

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Press Release- Government ‘criminally negligent’ Bhopal survivors forced to consume contaminated water

Photo: Madhya Pradesh Government 'criminally negligent' allege Bhopal survivors as thousands forced to consume contaminated water.

Photo: (c) Andy Spyra, Bhopal Medical Appeal

Please join the Bhopal Medical Appeal emailing list:


August 14, 2013

At a press conference yesterday , leaders of the five organizations of survivors of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal charged the Madhya Pradesh government with criminal neglect in providing clean drinking water to neighbourhood residents of the abandoned pesticide factory. They said that thousands of residents are forced to drink and cook with local ground water that is contaminated by the hazardous wastes of Union Carbide.

Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action said that despite a Supreme Court order of May 2004 and the intervention by the Monitoring Committee set up by the Supreme Court at least 800 families are being denied piped supply of clean drinking water as of today.

Sarangi who is also a member of the Monitoring Committee said that on February 19, 2013, Justice K K Lahoti, the Committee’s Chairman had given clear directions that the work of providing drinking water connections to all families that are resident of the 22 communities known to have contaminated ground water had to be completed by July 30.

Balkrishna Namdeo of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha said that there were 1000 people in Kainchi Chhola, Shiv Nagar and other areas whose houses were yet to be connected with pipelines. He said that homes of 3000 people in Jaiprakash Nagar, Karim Baksh Colony, Shakti Nagar, Navjeevan Colony and other areas were connected with pipelines but they had no water supply.

Rashida Bee of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh said that hundreds of families in Prem Nagar, Shiv Nagar, Blue Moon Colony, Navjeevan Colony and Preet Nagar faced chronic shortage of drinking water because of low pressure of water that was supplied every alternate day.

Nawab Khan of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha said that in November 2012 and again in January 2013 the Supreme Court had issued clear directions to ensure that sewage lines and drinking water lines are kept apart so that there are no risks of contamination. He said that despite these orders in Nawab Colony, Preet Nagar and Shivshakti Nagar, there are several places where sewage and drinking water lines are close to each other.

Safreen Khan a founder member of Children against Dow Carbide said that in June 2012 Justice Lahoti had reported to the Supreme Court that there was a great need for creating drainage in the areas being supplied with drinking water. She said that in the absence of drainage, large areas in Preet Nagar, Shankar Nagar, Blue Moon Colony, Nawab Colony, Gareeb Nagar and Sundar Nagar remain water logged and are a health hazard for thousands of residents.


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#India – Lessons Learnt From UID Data Loss

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by Robin Chatterjee 22nd July, 2013 in Security


In April 2013 when Maharashtra government admitted to the loss of personal data of around 3 lakh applicants for Aadhaar card, it served to highlight just the tip of the potentially disastrous, catastrophic iceberg we are sitting on. The possible misuse of citizen data, containing Permanent Account Number (PAN) and biometric information, has raised question marks around trusting UIDAI’S IT infrastructure with the data of a billion. And more importantly, around the government’s empathy and understanding on the issue of data privacy. Three months down the line, we take a peek into the measures undertaken by the government machinery to avoid such incidents in the future, and bring to the table some suggestions from an expert.

The Facts

As per media reports, the data was lost while being uploaded from Mumbai to UIDAI server in Bengaluru. “While the transmission was in progress, the hard disk containing data crashed. When the data was downloaded in Bangalore, it could not be decrypted,” the newspaper report said quoting an official from Maharashtra Information Technology (IT) department, which is overseeing the enrolment of citizens. According to Rajesh Aggarwal, Secretary, Information Technology, Government of Maharashtra, the number of individuals affected is expected to be less than 1 percent of total enrolment done.

Measures Undertaken

Many analysts term this incident a case of extreme irresponsibility. From the very first phase of enrolments, several flaws were detected. But, the question is has the government learnt from its past mistakes and what is it doing to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself? According to Aggarwal, in Phase II some fundamental changes have been made to eliminate most of the irregular practices. For instance, now the operator has to authenticate himself/herself before starting the enrolment; hence, no unauthorised person can do the enrolment.

On the question of delayed sync with the national server, Aggarwal explains that the enrolment agency is supposed to sync the machine within 10 days of enrolment; else no further enrolment is possible on the machine. The packets need to be uploaded within 20 days; else there is a huge penalty. The agency is now pro-actively uploading the data packets quickly and within time, which significantly reduces the chances of hard disk failure, data loss, etc.

What More Can Be Done

With applicants getting added to the system by the thousands and lakhs on a continuous basis, scale is going to be critical. “Irrespective of what the agency believes, it seems that most of the IT infrastructure that UIDAI has was not meant for this scale. The agency should think of scaling up the existing infrastructure so that trivial things like a hard disk crash can be averted,” says HP Kincha, Former Secretary IT, Government of Karnataka and Chairman, Karnataka Innovation Council.

He further adds that dependency on IT is critical to effectively manage a process of such scale as the Aadhar project. Hence, IT awareness among operators needs to be given due importance. The government also needs to figure out how to backup the data and re-use the same in cases of urgency.

There isn’t an iota of doubt about the criticality of the data that is at potential risk in the entire Aadhar operation. But data loss due to trivial failures such as a hard disk crash only raises serious questions about the effectiveness of the government machinery. In the end, we expect our government to be pro-active in matters of data security and privacy.  But, we also recognise the fact that continuing to criticise the government alone is not the answer. Let the government take up this particular incident as a wake-up call to rectify existing flaws within the system and avoid such mishaps in the time to come.

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