Freedom of expression
The networks and services – provided by us as a telco and a TV & Media provider - give access to information and the exchange of ideas in a way that supports freedom of expression, openness, transparency, and democracy.
Issues related to freedom of expression and surveillance privacy pose a high risk to users of telecom services globally. Risks include mass surveillance, network shutdowns, localization of mobile devices and blocking or restriction of certain content. Today, there is an increasing trend of policymakers introducing surveillance measures to fight crime, terrorism, hate speech and more – measures that can potentially limit the freedom of expression and privacy of users.
This focus area is governed by the Group Policy – Freedom of Expression & Surveillance Privacy, the GNI Principles on Freedom of Expression and Privacy and the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights.
Our approach is to have clear rights-respecting policy commitments in place and secure implementation through processes that are regularly reviewed, including through third-party assurance. States define the scope of surveillance privacy and limitations to the free flow of information based on legislation and requests from authorities. We abide by such laws and regulations but challenge requests that have no or unclear legal grounds. When there is a conflict between internationally recognized human rights and local legislation, we seek for ways to raise the issue with relevant authorities or inform consumers and other stakeholders about the issue through public communications.
In our work we differ between two types of requests from governments/ authorities; conventional requests, which are day-to-day requests that are typically of lower risk, and unconventional requests. Unconventional requests are such which may have serious impacts on the freedom of expression and privacy of users. Examples include demands to shut down internet access, blocking of websites or requirements to retain data for surveillance when legislation is unclear.
Our group instruction sets out practical steps regarding assessments and escalation to be performed for unconventional requests. Such requests are to be assessed by the local company and escalated to group level for the final decision regarding which measures to take to mitigate human rights risks. We adhere to local legislation while also implementing measures that respect and support the rights of individuals. In addition, we aim to publicly share as much information as possible about unconventional requests.
We periodically publish 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 laws on mandatory data retention for law enforcement purposes, and also further context on ‘unconventional requests’.
More information can be found on pages 97-98 in the 2021 Annual and Sustainability Report.