Respecting freedom of expression - Telia Company's view on new surveillance regulation (‘direct access’) in Kazakhstan

New Kazakhstan technical regulations regarding government direct access to the network for surveillance, up-grade of SORM, were published in February 2017. Telia Company’s commitment is to respect freedom of expression, we therefore report on new legislation with potentially serious impacts on the freedom of expression of our customers.

Government’s surveillance often serve legitimate purposes such as the protection of certain human rights, but they may also be problematic in that they could conflict with other human rights. Telia Company’s commitment is to respect freedom of expression in telecommunications.

Operational and technical control
Direct-accesss-systems, such as SORM in Kazakhstan, allow government authorities real-time access to the networks of telecommunications operators without making specific or periodic demands to the operator. As articulated in our policy on freedom of expression, we advocate that governments should not have direct access to our networks and systems. Telia Company should retain operational and technical control.

The new Kazakhstan technical regulations regarding SORM will become effective in February 2018 and will impose new additional surveillance requirements as to the SORM equipment, also imposing large investments.

The full text of the new regulation is available, in Russian, here.

"Clear and transparent"
The Policy of Telia Company is not to engage in the politics of the countries in which we operate. We do not comment on politics or make political statements when representing our company. However, Telia Company does engage in dialogue regarding regulations that affect our business and customers of companies in which we have ownership interests.

Telia Company, as further defined in our Group Policy  advocates clear and transparent legal provisions on proportionality and necessity for all government legislation in the context of surveillance.
Telia Company welcomes that Kazakhstan law does not hinder transparency about these new regulations. Every step towards transparency provides civil society and oversight bodies the basis to determine whether the resulting interference with the right to privacy meet the tests of legality, necessity, and proportionality.

Kcell is currently in the process of discussions with potential suppliers of details of the implementation. Telia Company will continue to promote the above views, also when interacting with the Government of Kazakhstan in relation to this new legislation.

Together with other operators in February 2017, at the time together within the Telecoms Industry Dialogue, published the following industry joint letter on direct access. Further information about the surveillance laws in Kazakhstan is available here.