When Big Media Aren’t the Biggest

Vodafone has published a global report on government access to its networks, including data on the number of warrants issued for legal interception of content. The report reveals confirms the existence of direct-access systems that allow agencies to listen in on pretty much any call they want, and for which telcos have no information about the incidences of access or who was being targeted.

It also details the number of warrants issued, country-by-country, for content and metadata access. In Australia in 2013, Vodafone says there were 685,757 requests for metadata, and 3,389 requests for access to content of calls. The Guardian does a much better job of explaining it than I could, but I want to pick up on a couple of points.

Vodafone is the third player in Australia’s mobile telco market. This website says Vodafone in Australia only has under 3 million customers to Telstra’s 14 million and Optus’ 9.5 million. That works out to be just 11% of the market.

So, from more back-of-the-envelope calculations, lets extrapolate the number of requests for metadata to the other two providers. If Vodafone has 11% of 26.5 million mobile subscribers (yes, over 100% of the population), and assuming it receives an equal share of 11% of requests for metadata, there were something in the order of 6.23 million requests for access to metadata alone.

The same calculation for access to content suggests there were over 30,000 requests.