Freedom of expression
Our networks and services enable access to information and the exchange of ideas in a way that supports freedom of expression, openness, transparency and democracy. Telia Company is committed to respect the freedom of expression and right to privacy of users while meeting legal requirements in the countries where we operate.
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 and 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 through third-party assurance. States define the scope of surveillance privacy and limitations to the free flow of information through legislation and decisions by 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 try to find ways to raise the issue with the authorities or by pointing to the issue in public communications.
We have implemented a process of practical steps regarding assessments and escalation to be carried out whenever a local company receives a request or demand that may have serious impacts on the freedom of expression and privacy of users (“unconventional request”). Potentially unconventional requests are to be assessed by the local company and escalated to group level for final decision-making regarding measures – “points of challenge” – to mitigate human rights risks. In this way we can adhere to local legislation while at the same time seeking to carry out measures that respect and support the rights of individuals. In addition, we aim to publicly share as much information as possible about requests.
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’.