Respecting freedom of expression – Telia Company´s view on new surveillance law (“Direct access”) in Norway

A proposal for new Norwegian legislation regarding government access to Telia Norway’s network and systems for covert surveillance was published November 12th 2018. Telia Company’s commitment is to respect freedom of expression and surveillance privacy, we therefore report on new legislative proposals with potentially serious impacts on those rights of our customers.

Government’s surveillance often serves 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 and surveillance privacy.

Operational and technical control

Direct-access-systems, such as ‘FRA’ in Sweden, ‘SORM’ in Russia, recent new legislation in Finland, as well as similar legislation elsewhere need to be contextualized in relation to the overall legal system but they allow government authorities access to the networks of telecommunications operators without making specific or periodic demands to the operator. The Telia Company regular Transparency Reporting (‘Law Enforcement Disclosure Report’) includes a table of similar laws, where applicable, in other Telia Company local markets, see our latest report March 2019, pages 18 – 20, here.

As articulated in our policy on freedom of expression and surveillance privacy (available here, ‘Public advocacy’ – page 2 Policy principle 3), we advocate in all of our markets that governments should not have direct access to our networks and systems. It is our view that our local companies should retain operational and technical control.

Under the proposed Norwegian new law providers of electronic communications services, including Telia Norway, would have a duty to facilitate for a Norwegian Authority (‘Etteretningstjenesten’) to gather electronic information that crosses the Norwegian border.  Visavi the operators, the proposed set-up might lead to direct access. The authority will then, based on decisions by a court, be able to a search in the metadata.

This new Norwegian legislation has now received comments from all relevant stakeholders. The comments are unusually critical. It is not clear when the proposed new law would be enacted. The documents regarding the proposal is available, in Norwegian, here:

‘Clear and transparent’

The Policy of Telia Company is not to engage in politics of the countries in which we operate. We do not make political statements when representing our company. However, Telia Company does engage in dialogue regarding regulations that affect our business and customers.

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 will continue to promote the above views, also when interacting with the Government of Norway in relation to this proposed new legislation.