Ernest Dempsey — Privacy invasion is one of the most worrying of issues in our time of cyber and cell phone technologies. Private communication of people using cell phones is entirely in the hands of the mobile communication companies and can be delivered to governments or agencies without being brought into the knowledge of the consumers. For one thing, it is a matter of life and death – or at least as serious.
Though anyone using a cell phone can be at risk on the above account, activists and investigative journalists are likely to be more so since they work toward causes where quite often they are moving to thwart a powerful agency, business interest, and even an entire government on some issue of grave importance. This ties in to the broader matter of consumer protection. If, for example, information of consumers is to be leaked to a third party – whether government, or an agency, or any other element – the details of what amount and kind of information was provided and to whom must be provided to the respective consumer as well. One-way leak of information can mean potential exploitation of a side whose information was leaked without their knowing it.
Given the seriousness of this matter, the international NGO Access is gathering voices of support to demand Vodafone – provider of cell phone communication service to over 370 million people in 70 counties – to be transparent about the cell phone data provided to any governments that asked for it. Access has started a petition in this regard and is gathering signatures to support its cause.
An email notification from Access to its subscribers informs that the organization is going to see Vodafone in London at the Annual Shareholder Meeting of the company. The notification says that the organization conveyed to Vodafone its Telco Action Plan, which challenges mobile phone companies to respect human rights and remedy their violations, a year ago.
“But here we are one year later, and there are still questions about Vodafone’s practices,” reads the email notification from Access.
Now, to put the question of consumer protection and access to information about who was handed over what kind of information about whom, Access is going to see Vodafone in London. The hope underlying this effort is that if Vodafone is convinced with voices of public support to meet their demand, other telecommunication companies will follow the development.