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

Global Network Initiative (GNI)

All over the world companies in the ICT-sector face increasing government pressure to comply with domestic laws and policies in ways that may conflict with the internationally recognized human rights of freedom of expression and privacy.

In response, a multi-stakeholder group of companies, civil society organizations (including human rights and press freedom groups), investors and academics – together some 50 entities - have joined together in a collaborative approach to protect and advance freedom of expression and privacy in the ICT sector, and formed this Global Network Initiative (GNI). More information about the GNI is available here.

Telia Company is an active member of the GNI. Our active participation stimulates shared learning on how to best respect freedom of expression and privacy and provides leverage to advocacy promoting freedom of expression and privacy in the ICT industry.