Wednesday, April 18, 2012 -
Swedish-Finnish telecommunications firm TeliaSonera is allowing authoritarian regimes in Central Asia to use their technology to spy on citizens, Swedish media reported on Wednesday.
TeliaSonera has signed a bevy of contracts with Kazakh, Uzbek, and Tajik mobile phone companies in recent years, and indicated its interest in expanding its business interests to Kyrgyzstan. It now owns Kazakhstan’s Kcell mobile phone company, Uzbekistan’s Ucell, and Indigo-Tajikistan and Indigo-Somoncom in Tajikistan.
As part of the contracts, TeliaSonera has implemented the “Sorm” program which allows the governments of Uzbekistan, Belarus, and Azerbaijan to access customers’ telephone calls, text messages, and other data. Some of this information has been used to ensnare opposition activists.
Reports that TeliaSonera is allowing Central Asian governments to spy on their citizens through their products is set to emerge in a Swedish television report on Svergiese Televisision (SVT) on Wednesday.
“In all countries, including Sweden, security services have the right, under certain circumstances relating to fighting and preventing crime, to set up wiretaps and access traffic to the network,” TeliaSonera company spokesman Thomas Jonsson told the TT Swedish news agency.
“That’s controlled by national legislation and we need to follow the laws of the countries we’re in.”
However, one of TeliaSonera’s business partners is shocked by the report, Swedish news agency The Local reported on Wednesday.
“It’s a little shocking that they house the security services in their own offices,” The Local reported Folksam’s Carina Lundberg Markow as telling TT. Folksam is an insurance firm that partly owns TeliaSonera.
Sweden’s minister for financial markets, Peter Norman, has requested an audience with TeliaSonera chair Anders Narvinger to discuss the report.
The Swedish government owns a 37 percent share in the telecommunications firm.