BT Refuses to Publish Ties to GCHQ

BT is refusing to publish a transparency report on issues of surveillance, failing to follow its peers in Vodafone and AT&T.

The ISP dismissed calls this week to publish its links to bodies like GCHQ.


Photo: BT

Sir Michael Rake, chairman of BT, made the comments at a telecoms conference in London where he said the carrier would not be make any such report public.

“We are not going to compare ourselves to Vodafone, which is an entirely different company, operating in different countries,” said the chairman. BT is currently the largest Internet provider in the UK but dropped its British phone network business in 2001.

BT operates in 170 countries and has partnerships with Deutsche Telecom but this service is not offered in the UK.

Vodafone previously issued a transparency report that highlighted that 29 countries on its vast network have been snooped on by government agencies. The report set a precedent and many privacy advocates and groups requested several other carriers and companies follow suit and publish their ties with government agencies.

Peter Micek from the privacy group Access has accused BT of “facilitating direct GCHQ’s access” to customer data.

“BT is not alone, but you haven’t taken the action that many of your peers have,” he said in comments quoted by The Guardian. “You have not released a transparency report like so many telcos are continuing to do around the world, describing the laws on requests and network shutdowns worldwide.”

Data retention in the UK is currently hotly debated as the government has moved to pass controversial “emergency” legislation that will continue to force telecoms to retain data on customers for the government; all despite an ECJ ruling that deemed such practices unlawful.