TIME Security

A ‘Nightmare Scenario:’ Vodafone Reveals Huge Global Snooping Program

A Vodafone sign on May 30, 2006.
A Vodafone sign on May 30, 2006. AP

If you're a Vodafone customer, chances are your government has the tools to listen in directly

Just a day after the first anniversary of Edward Snowden’s watershed surveillance leaks, the world’s second-largest mobile phone company has announced that numerous government agencies have direct and open access to the conversations of its 381 million customers across the globe.

Privacy advocates are calling it a “nightmare scenario.”

The Guardian reported on Friday that Vodafone, which has operations in 29 countries, is to release a document describing “secret wires” that allow governments to monitor and record phone calls, text messages, and Internet data use.

The wires, Vodafone says, are “widely used” by a number of agencies.

Stephen Deadman, Vodafone’s group privacy officer, told the Guardian that “These pipes exist, the direct access model exists.”

The 40,000 word document, entitled Law Enforcement Disclosure Report, will be released publicly on Friday.

U.K. civil liberties advocate Shami Chakrabarti said to the Guardian that the fact that governments were able to “access phone calls at the flick of a switch” created a situation that was “unprecedented and terrifying.”

Vodafone said it intends to call for an end to “direct access to an operator’s communications infrastructure without a lawful mandate.”

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