In all our markets, law enforcement agencies and other authorities have legal powers to access personal data or information we hold in our networks and to restrict communication. This means that as a provider of telecommunications, Telenor may have to assist law enforcement and other government agencies in ways that can impact people’s privacy and freedom of expression. This may involve disclosing customer information to government authorities and allowing law enforcement officials to hear phone calls or read electronic messages. This is often referred to as access to historical data and lawful interception, respectively. This is typically used to solve criminal cases, prevent serious security threats or help find missing people. We recognise that this serves vital societal needs, and that our networks and data can provide information that is important for the authorities. At the same time, we recognise that there may be circumstances in which otherwise legitimate rights to access may be misused by authorities.
This means that there are some instances in which it might be challenging to maintain a balance between privacy and the interests of authorities. When a conflict regarding requests arises, Telenor does its best to apply the higher standard, including pushing back, as outlined in the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights and the GNI Principles. In the section below you’ll find more information on how this is done.
Another type of request we may get from the authorities is to shut down the network. Telenor seeks to avoid the shutdown of its networks and believes that it is in the best interest of the customers to minimise disruption of services. However, in extraordinary circumstances a government may require a limited network shutdown to protect its citizens from terrorism or other serious safety or security threats.
Telenor may also receive censorship requests to block access to a website, for example. While we believe that blocking sites containing child sexual abuse material helps address a serious criminal activity, requests to block political content, for example, present challenges. Finally, we may be asked to send out information on behalf of the authorities, for example a flood warning via SMS. These types of messages can save lives for instance during natural disasters, and we believe it is important to support spreading this type of information. However, it is problematic if messages from authorities amount to political propaganda, something that we do not support. In order to respect human rights, including privacy and freedom of expression, authorities’ access to our data and networks should be clearly stipulated in law and regulations. In addition to the principle of legitimacy, requests should be based on an assessment of necessity and proportionality. This means that the measures should be no more intrusive than necessary.
Legislation should put in place safeguards to protect customers against arbitrariness and the risk of abuse. We find great value in independent authorisation and oversight mechanisms to monitor that requests are necessary, proportionate and in accordance with the spirit and purpose of relevant laws and regulations. Where a request is accompanied by a court order, Telenor will nonetheless push back if the request is manifestly unnecessary or disproportionate. We also encourage the public of the findings from oversight mechanisms.