Bericht zur Überwachung

Surveillance report.

This was one German newspaper‘s translation of Vodafone’s Law Enforcement Disclosure Report, which the telecom said will be published annually.

Vodafone’s pioneering Law Enforcement Disclosure Report said that in some of the 29 countries where it does business the governments have connected directly to the telecom’s networks and can listen to its customers’ phone conversations live without involving or informing the company.

Also, in the countries of Albania, Egypt, Hungary, India, Malta, Qatar, Rumania and South Africa, it is illegal for telecommunications providers to publish how many requests for wiretapping they have received from the government.

(Bear ICHH t   tsoo ah   üb ah VOCHH oong.)

SORM, Roskomnadzor, &c.

SORM, which apparently stands for “System for Operative Investigative Activities,” is a mass surveillance system in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Roskomnadzor is Russia’s “Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media” according to English wikipedia.

The following is from an October 2013 article describing Russia’s domestic surveillance system prior to the winter Olympics in Sochi.

“In Russia, the FSB [Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, successor to the Soviet KGB] must also obtain a court order to eavesdrop, but once they have it, they are not obliged to show it to anybody except FSB superiors. Telecoms providers have no right to demand to see the warrant; they must pay for Sorm equipment and installation, but are denied access to the boxes. The FSB does not even need to contact ISP staff; instead it calls the FSB controller, who is linked by a protected cable to the Sorm device installed on the ISP network.”

“Das Geld dafür geben die Anderen”

“Other people are paying for it,” how financial reporter Frank Bethmann commented the U.S. company Verizon’s “schwindelerregend” offer of $130 billion to buy out British partner Vodafone’s stake in their U.S. joint venture Verizon Wireless. In the 02 Sep 2013 announcement of the sale, Verizon said as part of it they intended to borrow $25 billion one week later at the currently very low interest rates; that would have been the largest amount ever borrowed by a company in the history of the world apparently.

Update on 12 Sep 2013: Verizon’s $49 billion Unternehmensanleihe [“company loan” i.e. corporate bond] “emission in eight tranches at varying interest rates and terms to investors around the globe” was the biggest ever, according to manager-magazin.de, adding that the takeover itself was also the third-biggest ever.

This is not the only vertiginous telecom merger in the works. There’s two in the German market as well.

On 23 Jul 2013, Spanish Telefónica’s German subsidiary O2 announced that it wanted to buy the Dutch KPN’s German subsidiary E-Plus, though “only” for five billion euros. The resulting company would become the German market’s largest mobile phone provider (43 million customers), followed by Deutsche Telekom subsidiary T-mobile (37 million customers) and then the British Vodafone (32 million c.). The merger required approval from German and E.U. competition authorities.

Update on 12 May 2014: The German Monopoly Commission [Monopolkommission] told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung they expect the E.U. to set serious competition-saving conditions for approving Telefónica’s acquisition of E-plus, including that there will still be four mobile telephony providers in the German market after the merger. “Abstract concessions and offers won’t do it.” Three mobile phone providers competing in the German market would not suffice because E-plus was the one that stirred up the market the most and it would be the one disappearing.

Update on 13 Sep 2013: Now British Vodafone is purchasing the Munich-based Kabel Deutschland, “Germany’s biggest cable network operator,” at ~8.5 million television households,” for ~11 billion euros (~7.7 billion for ≥75% of Kabel Deutschland’s stock and the rest to cover Kabel’s debts; stock cost to be announced Monday 16 Sep 2013), according to Spiegel.de and manager-magazin.de. This will increase Vodafone’s competitiveness with Deutsche Telekom in the German market selling wireless and landline telephonery, television cable and internet access. European competition authorities approved the deal on 20 Sep 2013.

Huge telecom mergers & acquisitions could be motivated by more than just the roseate future of voice and internet communications plus current rock-bottom interest rates. If telecom industry people believe governments will stop defending net neutrality and consumer privacy, they will fear they must join a large existing telecom and fight to expand it, or die. They will not think risky entrepreneurship or small-to-medium-sized companies are an option. If a telecom gets big enough in a deregulated market that includes suspicionless surveillance, the money will sort itself out somehow. In regulatory situations where governments have to grant unusual concessions to big telecoms, governments will grant unusual concessions to big telecoms.

(Doss   GELD   dah foor   gay ben   dee   ON dare en.)

Ohne uns nichts

“Without us, nothing.” Since the George W. Bush administration, the former U.S. phone monopoly AT&T appears to have provided cooperation in constitutionally questionable surveillance projects to such a degree that one might conclude the company thinks no one can be elected president of the U.S.A. without its support.

In addition to the famous access to a key internet node that AT&T was caught providing in San Francisco in 2002 and then granted retroactive immunity for by Congress, NYTimes.com reporting and others’ follow-ups appear to indicate AT&T has been keeping its own copies of phone communications which people have used to access e.g. a 26-year-old phone call. AT&T let government agents hire and even “embed” AT&T employees to help search the phone company’s difficult-to-use database providing access to these calls. NYTimes.com described the expensive database consultants as having to sit next to the government agents as they attempted to use the software; if this is so it makes you wonder how and if AT&T managed to keep the N.S.A. and G.C.H.Q. from having remote access to its computers.

AT&T also appears to be gradually re-acquiring the Baby Bell phone companies it was split into. Were that the case, the company might leave ~1.5 competitors in the market to avoid appearing monopolistic.

(OH neh   OONTS   NIX.)

“Reich der verdeckten Parteispenden”

“Empire of hidden donations to political parties.”

Austria continues to have fascinating scandals. This Süddeutsche.de article based on News.at reporting and dated a month before their recent parliamentary election describes some salacious-sounding goings-on. Investigations into corruption in “the” phone company Telekom Austria for “stock price manipulation, questionable Eastern European dealings and alleged law buying” has turfed up unreported donations to both the conservative party Ö.V.P. and the social democrats S.P.Ö. The Ö.V.P. and S.P.Ö. have been in a grosse Koalition for the past few national governments and are about to form a new grosse Koalition, though with the weakest results so far.

The unreported political donations came from: Telekom Austria, Österreichische Lotterien [“Austrian Lotteries”], Raiffeisen bank, the Austrian post office corporation [Österreichische Post AG], P.S.K. bank and the Industriellenvereinigung [“Federation of Austrian Industry,” abbr. IV; Wikipedia says this is the Austrian employers’ lobbying organization]. There appears to be a Jack Abramoff king-lobbyist character involved: Peter Hochegger, his company Valora AG, and an agency Mediaselect to which they transferred funds. Peter Hochegger has been under investigation for scandals from the time when the ex-Haider F.P.Ö. was in a ruling national coalition with the conservative Christian Ö.V.P.

In the 29 Sep 2013 Austrian parliamentary election, the two biggest parties barely got enough votes to form another grosse Koalition (the last one, journalists speculated). The racist ex-Haider F.P.Ö. came in third. Other small parties also did well, in an indication of voter frustration: Austrian Green party ~10%, the weird new party of a Canadian-Austrian billionaire ~5%, and the new party of “young neoliberals” ~5% (though if it’s like the German neoliberal party F.D.P. appears to be, this group will front with young politicians—rapid risers with amazing management skills!—while old men quietly run the show, selling a network disguised as a reservoir of superior business knowledge).

(R-r-rye chh   dare   fair DECK ten   pah TIE shpen den.)

“Völlig achtlos kann sich der Verbraucher nicht verhalten.”

“Consumers cannot behave entirely heedlessly,” said a representative of Germany’s federal-level consumer protection agency, reminding Vodafone customers to keep an eye on their bank accounts for any strange activity.

The data of two million German Vodafone customers, including direct-debit banking data, have been stolen. Düsseldorf prosecutors are investigating. Vodafone discovered the theft on 05 Sep 2013 and announced it to the public a week later. They said they thought it was an employee at an external service provider.

The company set up a F.A.Q. website for the issue here.

Spiegel.de reminds us that last year Vodafone learned in December 2012 that its hardware had made its customers’ private data vulnerable, but the company only informed its customers after the Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik [Federal Office for Safety in Information Technology, BSI] in Hamburg publicly announced a safety warning in August 2013.

(FULL ichh   OCHH t loh ss   con   zichh   dare   fair BROW chh ah   nichh t   fair HALT en.)

 

Wirtschaftsspionage

“Economic espionage,” industrial espionage. June 2013 reports that Germany was the N.S.A.’s most-spied-on country in the E.U. created German misgivings that financial advantages might be being sought.

The Guardian.co.uk’s “heat map” for the NSA’s “Boundless Informant” surveillance system indicated only countries like Iran, Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt and India were being monitored more than Germany.

This fear was not alleviated by Süddeutsche Zeitung and Norddeutsche Rundfunk reporting on 02 Aug 2013 describing Snowden-trove British General Communications Headquarters docs from 2009. It listed U.K. telecoms that “assisted” G.C.H.Q. (with each company’s code name): Verizon Business (“Dacron”), British Telecommunications (“Remedy”), Vodafone Cable (“Gerontic”), Global Crossing (“Pinnage”), Level 3 (“Little”), Viatel (“Vitreous”) and Interoute (“Streetcar”); some of these telecom companies even developed software to help spy on their customers and were paid for that by G.C.H.Q. “For the good of the British economy” was a reason given in a G.C.H.Q. PowerPoint presentation for why these telecoms were selling their customers’ communications.

Update on 19 Jan 2014: ZDF heute journal reported the listening post atop the U.S. embassy in Berlin was indeed used for economic espionage: they were interested in the Chancellor’s opinions about the euro currency, for example.

In 2003, the company Ferrostaal, headquartered in Essen, was competing with a U.S. company for a contract to deliver radio monitoring equipment to Nigeria. The U.S. embassy in Berlin supplied Ferrostaal’s U.S. competitor with data from Ferrostaal’s secret bid, according to an embassy cable found in the Wikileaks trove. Details ZDF showed in a copy of the cable included the German company’s offered price (24 million euros) and financing (“5.1 to 7.0 percent for possibly 5 years”). The U.S. company won the contract.

(VEE at shofts ess pee own OJ.)

Verschlüsselungspflicht für Telekom-Unternehmen

“Mandatory encryption for telecom companies,” one solution proposed by the opposition to Angela Merkel’s coalition in the wake of Edward Snowden’s surveillance revelations. Another solution, discussed by the ruling coalition, was supposedly transferring responsibility for saving searchable copies of all communications from public-sector government agencies to private-sector phone companies.

Update on 02 Sep 2013: NYTimes.com reporting and others’ follow-ups appear to indicate that the company AT&T has been keeping its own copies of phone communications, more than just “metadata,” and people have used it to access 26-year-old phone calls. AT&T employees could be hired to help government agents search their difficult database.

Update dated 4 July 2013: Holland’s Data Protection Authority issued a report on their investigation into mobile network packet inspection by KPN, Tele2, T-Mobile and Vodafone, finding that the companies illegally saved individual customers’ online data, such as websites visited and apps used. The data was furthermore saved in a “detailed” manner.

(Fer SHLÜSS ell oongs flichh t   foor   TAY lay kom oon ter NAY men.)

Bettgeflüster

“Bed whispers,” German title of the old movie “Pillow Talk” starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson. Ezra Klein’s blog on the Washington Post recently posted about different types of public and private employees who have been caught or might be caught inappropriately making use of the vast phone and internet databases being collected and shared by e.g. the N.S.A.; one of the the least problematic bad uses so far has been to laugh about people’s private pillow talk.

Policemen: Police officers around the U.S.A. were caught using the F.B.I.’s huge N.C.I.C. database to snoop on each other, their significant others or, in one case, women a policeman wanted to cook and eat.

Military: The N.S.A. is part of the military. Fwiw, they said only a small number of people can search their phone records database (Edward Snowden?). A former N.S.A. employee told ABC in 2008 that N.S.A. employees used to listen to overseas soldiers’ phone sex.

Spies: There are fears inside and outside the U.S.A. that intelligence agencies around the world are spying on each other’s domestic populations as a favor to help local agencies circumvent laws protecting their citizens against domestic surveillance by their own governments. As a favor then your country’s communications data would be bulk-hoovered by at least one other country’s intelligence agencies and stored there before being shared with your country’s intelligence agencies…

Mercenaries: If 70% of the U.S.’s intelligence budget has been spent on private contractors in recent years, including on Edward Snowden’s former employer, then tens of thousands of guys must have worked these jobs by now with access to databases and powerful tools.

Telecommunications companies: Ars Technica posted that U.S. intelligence agencies partner with a U.S. telecom company to (somehow) collect phone and internet data from local telecom companies in foreign countries. Providing historical perspective, WaPo wrote that when giant fiber optics network operator Global Crossing went bankrupt in 2002 and was being bid on by firms from Hong Kong and Singapore, the U.S.A.’s F.C.C. held up approval of the deal until systems for U.S. government access to those networks had been agreed to. That model, worked out by reps from Defense, Justice and Homeland Security departments, has now been used by the F.C.C.’s “Team Telecom” for other telecom companies too. Phone companies, phone companies that provide internet connections, cable television companies that provide internet connections and companies that run, maintain or manage copper, fiber optic, satellite and other networks: all have employees and consultants that might also be able to access such data.

Software and content providers: “nine major” U.S. companies including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo and AOL have been sharing customer communication data with U.S. intelligence agencies; their employees and consultants might also be able to access these data.

News agencies and newspapers: Rupert Murdoch’s phone-hacking scandal in London indicates at least U.K. journalists have succeeded in paying police to acquire the kind of private information stored in these big databases. Such news companies’ employees and consultants, and their subsidiaries’ and parent corporations’ employees and consultants, and anyone capable of tapping journalists’ insecure computers and phones, might access all journalists’ data including those data obtained from police.

(BETT geh FLÜÜ stah.)

Datendrosselung

“Data throttling.” Deutsche Telekom, whose subsidiary T-Mobile stood out from other US telephone companies because it was never explicitly mentioned in the press as having given its customers’ data to the George W. Bush administration, has announced that starting May 1, 2013, it will slow down internet traffic for its flat-rate German customers above a low monthly data limit of 75 GB. There will be no appeal. People are furious. Critics say there may be a competition issue because Telekom’s own online content, such as from its entertainment channels, will not count toward the monthly data limit. If so, this might be a case for the Bundesnetzagentur, the German Federal Networks Agency for Electricity, Gas, Telecommunications, Post and Railroads (BNetzA).

Update on 30 Oct 2013: A Cologne court forbade Deutsche Telekom to slow down the data supplied to its flat-rate internet customers, in a lawsuit brought by the North Rhine-Westphalian Consumer Protection Agency [Verbraucherschutzzentrale Nordrhein-Westfalen e.V.]. Deutsche Telekom was planning to reduce these household internet connections to as low as <10% of normal surfing speeds.

Süddeutsche.de reported that the court said Telekom could slow down its customers’ internet access but not without changing its current marketing. Without fixing the problem, “Drosselkom” had tried several responses to the outrage sparked by these plans this year, including offering a second more expensive flat rate plan that really, they swore, this time, would not be subsequently decelerated. Competitors 1&1 and Kabel Deutschland have been capping their customers’ internet connections too, SZ reported. They quoted a pundit as saying the Cologne Landgericht’s verdict was important for starting to create limits to contracts that have been being arbitrarily changed by companies. Telekom plans to appeal.

(DOT en DROSS ell oong.)

Doschd

“Dozhd,” an “optimistic” independent Russian television channel. Its name means “rain” in Russian. Started as an Internet-only channel in April 2010, Dozhd became known internationally after their in-depth coverage of protests following the 2011 Duma election. German Wikipedia says their content is two-thirds live reporting and discussion, plus concerts, readings, experimental programs, documentaries, video art &c. There is an affiliated radio channel Serebrjanny Doschd (Себебрянный дождь,”Silver Rain”).

Update on 08 Feb 2014: An interview on Australian ABC Radio National’s Media Report mentioned that despite recent Russian legislation recriminalizing defamation, making it possible to blacklist websites for carrying the very vague “unlawful content” and redefining treason so broadly “that it could be now that any information shared with an international journalist is an act of espionage,” as host Richard Aedy said, the critical broadcaster Doschd has been suppressed by applying huge pressure to the cable operators connecting it to viewers to drop the channel. Guest Norman Hermant said Doschd was perhaps Russia’s most independent broadcaster, disseminating primarily by internet but also to consumers’ televisions by cable and satellite networks. “It’s now been left to an internet stream. Now an internet stream in Russia is very good for people who want to see it in Moscow and a few other big cities. But the vast majority of Russians still get their news and information from broadcast media.”

Vorratsdatenspeicherung

“Reservoir data storage,” “advance data saving,” now also being called dragnet e.g. surveillance + storage. When a government collects and saves people’s personal communication data in advance, without cause, before needing the data.

Germany is in trouble with the EU for not implementing the EU rule that telecommunications data should be collected without cause and saved for six months. German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich (CSU) supports the six-month EU plan but many other German parties and politicians do not. The German Supreme Constitutional Court found that the EU rule conflicts with German law.

Update on 18 Dec 2012: Spiegel-Online reports that more than 11,000 concerned Austrians, including telecommunications employees and Carinthian civil servants, have asked the Austrian constitutional court to postpone deliberating on Austria’s new data privacy law until the European Court of Justice can determine whether the EU rule violates basic human rights. By law, communications data in Austria have had to be saved for six months since 1 Apr 2012. The EU rule was passed in 2006. The Irish High Court asked the European Court of Justice to examine the rule in mid-July 2012, and it may happen in 2013.

Update on 12 Dec 2013: The European Court of Justice is examining the E.U. guideline requiring telecommunications companies to save customers’ data for “up to two years” in case they are suspected of committing crimes in the future. An expert opinion submitted by an E.U. Advocate General to the court found the two-year dragnet data storage guideline conflicts with the E.U. Charter of Fundamental Rights. ARD tagesschau.de moderator Jan Hofer said the court usually follows such expert opinions.

Update on 08 Apr 2014: The European Court of Justice overturned the E.U.’s 2006 guideline requiring mandatory dragnet surveillance and recording of all electronic phone and internet data because it violates fundamental human rights [Grundrechte].

(FORE rots DOT en shpy cher oong.)

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