Telecom Companies Must Respect the Privacy of All Citizens

STAVANGER, NORWAY – Sep 3, 2015 – Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD) considers the use of technology including telecommunications and the Internet a driving force for development and progress. Therefore, GNRD believes, none of those technologies should be used to violate one’s right to privacy, enshrined in Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Launching this international alert for all citizens of the world, GNRD points out that individual privacy increasingly is at stake – violated by States, criminal gangs and amateurs.

Under increasing pressure from governments or in return for monetary rewards from other countries with vested interests, the majority of telecommunications companies in the world are deliberately keeping an open protocol or gap in the communication system called SS7, to enable them to spy on citizens.

This vulnerability in the Signalling System 7 protocols allows the concerned companies to easily hack mobile phones, obtain unauthorized information, make citizens victims of their violations of individual privacy and expose the citizens to fraud and life-threatening situations.

GNRD calls on the telephone services companies to bridge the SS7 gap immediately. GNRD further urges the service providers to provide explanatory guidelines before selling mobile phones, SIM cards and services to make sure this vulnerability is not passed on further.

GNRD also calls on the citizens of the world to assert their inherent right, ensuring theirservice providers remove any vulnerabilities that can be exploited to facilitate illegal intrusion into their privacy. As is self-evident, such vulnerability through telecommunications undermines the foundations of any democratic society.

The right of every human being to privacy is not open to compromise and must not be subject to arbitrary or unlawful violation.  It is not permissible to interfere in one’s family affairs, household matters or correspondence. All national laws must approve the protection of this right by law.

While launching this international alert, GNRD confirms that the majority of companies in the world have been violating the law by doing little to close the gap and remove the SS7 vulnerabilities. GNRD calls on the telecommunications companies to put an end to this blatant violation, which is contrary to the individuals’ inherent rights. Continuing with such violations for material gain or under political pressure are acts that are contrary to international law, particularly the provisions of the UN General Assembly resolution 68/167. The resolution was adopted in December 2013 in response to concerns over the negative impact of illegal monitoring of communications and theft of personal data.

In 2014, the news media reported the SS7 protocol vulnerability and described how even non-state actors can track the movements of cellphone users from virtually anywhere in the world, with a success rate of approximately 70%. In addition, the SS7 protocol vulnerability made eavesdropping possible. Although researchers have developed certain tools to try to the beat problem, the threat is far from over. 

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Company Name: Global Network for Rights and Development
Country: Norway