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Eurobites: Vodafone Opens Window on Wire-tapping

Paul Rainford

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: BBC screens World Cup in 4K; STC joins Bridge Alliance; BA in Internet talks with Inmarsat… and donkey news!

  • Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) has put the cat among the pigeons with the release of its first Law Enforcement Disclosure report, which provides juicy details of how it responds to "demands for assistance" from the authorities in the 29 countries in which it operates. It turns out that six of the 29 countries' governments enjoy direct wire-tap access to Vodafone's networks, though they aren't named. In nine of the countries covered, however, it is unlawful to disclose any information related to wire-tapping -- so who know's what's going on in Albania, Egypt, Hungary, India, Malta, Qatar, Romania, South Africa, and Turkey. The revelations are bound to raise human rights concerns, such as those voiced by the director of lobby group Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, in a Guardian report: "For governments to access phone calls at the flick of a switch is unprecedented and terrifying… [Edward] Snowden revealed the Internet was already treated as fair game. Bluster that all is well is wearing pretty thin -- our analogue laws need a digital overhaul." (See Vodafone Unveils Law Enforcement Disclosure Report and Mobile Security: The Snowden Fallout.)

  • In case you hadn't heard, the soccer World Cup kicks off in a week's time, assuming the stadiums have been built by then. The British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) is using the tournament as a vehicle to test-transmit so-called 4K TV, relaying three of the games, including the quarter-final and the final, in this fancy-dan 1080-pixel high-definition format. The games will only be made available to a limited number of TV sets at specific BBC sites, however.

  • Saudi Telecom Co. (STC) has become the newest member of the Bridge Alliance, a partnership of 36 mobile operators across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia-Pacific that aims to foster collaboration around mobile enterprise services and M2M. STC has 23 million subscribers; the Bridge Alliance has a combined customer base of more than 660 million subscribers. (See Saudi Telecom Joins Bridge Alliance.)

  • UK airline British Airways is in talks with satellite operator Inmarsat plc (London: ISAT) with a view to becoming the launch customer of Inmarsat's high-speed Internet service on short-haul routes, reports the Financial Times (subscription required). Inmarsat is hoping to launch the European Union-wide service in 2016.

  • Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM)'s data center in Bern-Wankdorf (no sniggering at the back!) has been awarded Tier IV Design Certification by the Uptime Institute, the first in Switzerland to be so feted. The Uptime Institute defines and certifies four operator classes (Tier Levels I to IV), covering elements such as power supply, air-conditioning systems, and the corresponding control technology.

  • And finally: UK mobile operator EE is celebrating the rollout of 4G services to 15 more towns by offering "4G-powered" donkey rides on the beach in one of the towns, West Kirby. Bolt, Zip, Lightning, and Flash will be kitted out with high-speed WiFi in their saddles, thus turning the lovable if stubborn beasts into WiFi hotspots for the day. Surely one of them should be called EEyore?

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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    User Rank: Light Sabre
    6/6/2014 | 10:27:29 AM
    Shocking Wire-Tapping?
    Vodaphone's report on the 29 countries with direct wires into it's system should be shocking news. But, because the public is becoming accustomed to these types of revelations, it's being just another back page story. There would seem to be a need for some universal data collection agreements among the world's nations. A bit utopian, I'm sure, but the alternattive of no restrictions might be something we'll all regret.
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