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TeliaSonera 'profits by helping dictators spy'

Published: 18 Apr 2012 13:01 GMT+02:00

The Swedish-Finnish telecom giant earns huge sums from deals with dictatorships in the former Soviet Union, but the contracts are often signed on the condition that the countries' security services be granted access to their systems in order to facilitate spying on individuals.

In Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Uzbekistan, for example, there is a system called Sorm which is connected to TeliaSonera's network and which allows authorities complete access to the countries' telecom system, Svergies Television (SVT) investigative journalism programme "Uppdrag granskning" has shown.

The system allows security services direct access to subscribers' telephone calls, data, and text messages, resulting in wiretaps which have led to the arrest of members of the political opposition.

In one instance, a man in Azerbaijan was called in to an interrogation by the country's security service after having voted for Armenia in the finals of the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest.

TeliaSonera spokesperson Cecilia Edström told SVT that "police authorities have the right to access information from the net in order to fight crime."

"The laws in the countries go to different lengths in terms of the powers they grand police authorities to fight crime," she said.

Foreign minister Carl Bildt, who on Thursday opened a conference in Stockholm examining internet freedom, refused to comment on what responsibility Swedish telecom companies have when dealing with dictators.

According to Bildt, good communications are important for democracy.

"In general, I think that it's good that we participate in developing telecommunications in different countries. Having a working mobile phone system in Belarus is better for the opposition than for the regime," he told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

TeliaSonera, meanwhile, pointed out that different countries have different laws when it comes to tapping private communications of their citizens.

"In all countries, including Sweden, security services have the right, under certain circumstances related to fighting and preventing crime, to set up wiretaps and access traffic on the network. That's controlled by national legislation and we need to follow the laws of the countries we're in," company spokesperson Thomas Jönsson told the TT news agency.

"These are tough issues and nothing we take lightly. But as a lone telecom operator we can't do much."

However, insurance company Folksam, one of TeliaSonera's owners, was surprised by the report, which is set to broadcast in Sweden on Wednesday night.

"It's a little shocking that they house the security services in their own offices," Folksam's Carina Lundberg Markow told TT.

Martin Uggla, chair of the human rights organization Östgruppen för demokrati och mänskliga rättigheter ('The East group for democracy and human rights'), called the revelations about TeliaSonera's actions in the region "remarkable and scandalous".

"The information that has come out shows that TeliaSonera's claims that they act in an ethically acceptable manner aren't true," he said.

On Wednesday, Sweden's financial markets minister Peter Norman, who handles the government's management of state-owned companies, spoke with TeliaSonera chair Anders Narvinger and demanded he come to the ministry to explain what was revealed in the SVT report.

The Swedish government is the largest shareholder in TeliaSonera, owning just over 37 percent of the company's shares.

According to a government statement, the company will also be required to develop an action plan for how the company plans to address issues related to democracy in companies in which TeliaSonera is a partial owner.

TT/The Local/dl

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Your comments about this article

13:58 April 18, 2012 by Kr0n
When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

It is not TeliaSonera's fault. They want to earn money in Russia, and they have to follow Russian laws, not Swedish ones. It is so simple! For the curious, SORM (with all caps) is an abbreviation, meaning "Sistema Operativno-Rozysknykh Meropriyatii" or in English - System for Operative Search Activities (SOSA). It is implemented at every operator's own expense, for wireless and fixed lines alike. Operators must, by law, provide a special room on their premises for state security officers. And it is also cheaper than establishing secure high-speed channels from each operator to the central offices of each (and there are many) security service in Russia. The same is true also for other ex-USSR countries.

In Russia, the phone calls You!
14:17 April 18, 2012 by Abe L
completely agree with #1 - This is how you do business and make money in countries like Russia, China and Brazil.

This isn't shocking or negative and it's definitely not helping dictators spy.
14:32 April 18, 2012 by gpafledthis
#3 agrees with # 1&2
15:55 April 18, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
#2 It's also how you make money by selling telecommunications equipment and software to the USA.

The USA spies on its own citizens through unauthorized wire taps, among other means, and in other cases the police there and elsewhere in so-called non-dictatorship democracies are granted access to phone and email records with what is often only a trival effort before a government-appointed magistrate.

Hardware and software providers have to include thesecinterception capabilities for sales almost anywhere in the world. So no need for TL or other media to suggest to Swedes that they are bad people because one of their joint ventures with Finland happens to sell equipment that has this industry standard capability.
19:17 April 18, 2012 by Trenatos
You know, I don't mind this, as long as all they're getting access to is the systems and traffic within their countries.

Most countries have laws such that their police or security services can get access to various telecom systems, not abiding by these laws can mean anything from fines to being shut down as a business.
20:09 April 18, 2012 by sgt_doom
No wonder Wikileaks' Julian Assange is so wary of the senseless action by the schizoid Swedish government in their attempt to extradite him; especially given the abysmal record of Sweden's past guilt with aiding in American extreme rendition.

Swedish courts have found in favor of several Arab-Swedes who were erroneously extreme renditioned - or kidnapped -- for torture.

The Justice Minister at that time, Thomas Bodström, recently went on a tour in America, and lied his butt off, falsely claiming that Assange "fled Sweden" to avoid a trial, when clearly the facts prove otherwise!

Assange stayed in Sweden for questioning, after the case against him was dropped for lack of evidence, then restarted due to political pressure brought to bear on the Swedish Prosecution Authority.

Assange's attorney asked for permission for Assange to leave Sweden, since they refused to question him during the month he remained available for questioning!

Yet Thomas Bodström lies and lies about this, just as he colluded with America in their illegal kidnapping when he was justice minister.
02:48 April 19, 2012 by rolfkrohna
As Sweden has developed the most sophisticated ever in world history system for supervision and control of the individual, far beyond any Orwell 1984, it is no wonder every state, be it USA, Saudi Arabia, or North Korea, that want to suppress and control its population would be interested. Swedish main export is dictatorship tools today, primarily economic and technical tools.
11:08 April 19, 2012 by indeedmagnifier
The most stupid announcement ever heard in my life of two hypocrites, Cecilia Edström and Carl Bildt.

Why are you not saying that you are cooperating with the dictators? What are your values regarding human rights, so as your reasoning fraud "the death is good but not for you, it is just good for the neighbor"in your hypocrite opinions!

Is that your business to make good person of dictators? The biggest criminals in those countries are the dictator Governments that you are collaborating with!

You are deceiving the public opinion by these unintelligent reasons. And everybody knows and you know that those dictators are using your tecnologi to fight against freedom seekers not for the fight against the crimes. Opposite to your opinion they support the crime by means of your technology. Your hands are in the blood of the freedom seekers!

Be honest at least a little while with yourselves both Cecilia Edström and CarlBildt. With your weapon selling and your this kind of technology selling, you are striking the drums of war for especially poor countries.

So prepare at least half of Swedish land for billions of refugees escaping from Asia, Africa, central and south America. You are responsible for your criminal minds and behaviors. Prepare Sweden for lots of refugees and don't claime that why they are leaving their countries!
03:11 February 22, 2013 by NatPoSloLingoUKno
Från De Nationella Poet Slovenien På Ett Språk Människor Förstår

LARS LAUGH

Lars' last jobs prior to bad bank career, are

NCR, then TeliaSonera.

With his non-laundry checkie

On 3G bands Uzbeki

He's condemned to do bad bank Slovenia.

http://is.gd/z49CbN

The National Poet Of Slovenia In A Language People Understand interprets important Slovenian affairs for the non-Slovene speaking world. www.maria.si
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