This week Germany’s largest operator, Deutsche Telekom (DT) released its first transparency report. The released figures show 49,796 connections were surveilled, and 946,641 IP addresses were identified to authorities in the country last year. DT also answered requests for 436,331 records of internet traffic.
“We can now put hard numbers to the surveillance of internet users in yet another country,” said Access Policy Counsel Peter Micek. “A single German provider identified the owners of nearly one million IP addresses to authorities last year, likely without the users’ knowledge.”
From Australia to Germany, telecom providers are disclosing statistics on government requests for user data for the first time. In the past year, U.S. telecoms AT&T, Verizon, and CREDO Mobile, and Australian provider Telstra, have begun issuing similar reports on a regular basis. Vodafone has promised to release data from 25 countries it operates in, and in countries where disclosure is prohibited, the company will identify the law or regulations preventing transparency. DT’s release closely followed a report on Monday by smaller German email provider Posteo.
“These transparency reports are fast becoming a global business standard for telecoms, and provide an indispensable barometer on how governments are violating user privacy,” Micek continued. “Figures on government requests are one more piece of the puzzle that users need to see the complete picture of surveillance online.”
Access has long called for all telcos and ISPs to be more transparent about their processing of user data, and to release regular transparency reports on their assistance to governments. We are encouraged to see German companies joining telcos worldwide in taking this important step toward transparency on their respect for user privacy.