Freedom of expression

Telecommunications enable the exchange of ideas and access to information in a way that supports openness and transparency. It is our duty to respect our customers’ and users’ freedom of expression and privacy.

Strategic objective 2018 goals

Enable, respect and support freedom of expression and privacy.

We are regarded as the trusted ICT industry leader in human rights. 

• All markets covered in law enforcement disclosure with regards to statistics on government requests and information on local requests.

• All closed unconventional requests challenged. 

• Actively contribute to the Global Network Initiative (GNI).

The challenge

Issues related to freedom of expression and privacy pose a high risk to users of telecom services globally. Such risks include mass surveillance, network shutdowns, localization of mobile devices and blocking or restriction of certain content. Through legislation and decisions from authorities, states define the scope of surveillance of communications and limitations to the free flow of information. We foresee that freedom of expression will continue to increase in importance as legislators seek additional surveillance measures to fight crime and terrorism.

Our approach

The work is governed by the Group Policy – Freedom of Expression in Telecommunications, the GNI Principles on Freedom of Expression and Privacy and the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights.

Our duty to respect and promote human rights is focused on the risks to our customers. We aim to limit potential harm to individuals by seeking active measures to support the rights of our customers where we believe that these are at risk.

The Group Policy addresses our commitments in relation to requests or demands with potentially serious impacts on freedom of expression in telecommunications (“unconventional requests”). A group instruction sets out practical steps regarding assessments and escalation whenever a local company receives a potentially serious request or demand. Guidance is provided in a form for assessments and escalation.

We publish periodically a Law Enforcement Disclosure Report which covers: statistics on requests from the police and other authorities (‘transparency reporting’); links to national laws that provide governments with direct access to information about our customers and their communication without having to request information from Telia Company; as well as further information on ‘unconventional requests’.

More information, including 2016 outcome on the goals and law enforcement disclosure statistics, can be found in our Annual and Sustainability Report.

CEO statement: freedom of expression policy

"As a leading provider of telecommunication services, TeliaSonera is a vital part of the social and economic infrastructure in the markets where we operate. TeliaSonera provides tools and services that can significantly promote freedom of expression, even in countries where such freedoms are so far limited.

Industry Dialogue and GNI

The Industry Dialogue (ID), which includes eight international telecom companies, adds leverage to advocacy promoting freedom of expression and privacy in the telecommunications industry.

Our active participation stimulates shared learning on how to best respect freedom of expression and privacy. A description of the ID’s activities is available at Telia Company’s implementation of the Industry Dialogue’s Guiding Principles outlines our work with implementing the Industry Dialogue principles. Our reporting of country legal frameworks pertaining to freedom of expression and privacy in telecommunications is performed through contribution to the ID database on country legal frameworks.

The ID has a formal collaboration with the multi-stakeholder Global Network Initiative (GNI). By working together, the two initiatives aim to advance freedom of expression and privacy rights in the ICT sector more effectively. The collaboration provides a common platform for shared learning and leverage. In January 2016 the ID and GNI agreed to join forces, a collaboration which will take full effect in March 2017.