“Massive” phone tapping in Venezuela

“Massive” phone tapping in Venezuela

Nearly 900,000 telephone tapping in 2021 in Venezuela…. Human rights defenders denounce a “mass surveillanceof the population by discovering figures recently published by the Spanish telephony giant Telefonica. “It is a systematic abuse of interception of communicationsAndres Azpurua, director of VE Sin Filtro, a Venezuelan NGO that fights internet blockages and restrictions, told AFP.

This testifies “a mass surveillance program by intercepting communications and capturing metadata», estimates Andres Azpúrua, who denounces «a large-scale violation of human rights” who “denotes an authoritarian scenario“. The “lawful interceptionsTelefonica’s telephone lines and internet access jumped from 380,250 in 2016 to 861,004 in 2021, according to figures released Thursday by the company, present in Venezuela since 2005.

Telefonica published in its “2021 Transparency in Communications Report» data on requests for interception and blocking of websites received from authorities in the 12 countries where it is present: Germany, United Kingdom, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. Telefonica is the main mobile phone provider in Venezuela. The state-owned CANTV dominates the landline and internet market.

These “playsinvolved 20% of Telefonica’s customers in Venezuela, compared to only 0.28% in Brazil, 0.05% in Argentina or 0.00% in Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador. In addition, between 2016 and 2021, more than 3.5 million requests for “interceptions“aiming to know the data of subscribers and their location”in real timewere recorded. And nearly a million lines (997,679) were affected by requests for “metadata»: personal information, location, IP addresses, number of SMS received and sent, incoming and outgoing calls.

According to the report, these requests come from the Intelligence Service (Sebin) “at the request of the public prosecutor and with the authorization of the corresponding judge“, the scientific police and the armed forces, as well as “other special criminal investigation bodies and entities“. The Sebin is the subject of multiple allegations of human rights violations and persecution of opponents.

Information portals blocked

Carlos Correa, director of the NGO Espacio Publico, which monitors attacks on freedom of expression, deplores this “increase in phone tapping” who “testify to a very high level of surveillance by the State“.

In terms of internet access, more than 1,300 sites suffered between 2016 and 2021 from the blocking or restriction of content in Venezuela at the request of the National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel), according to Telefónica. Journalists and human rights organizations denounce the massive blocking of sites critical of President Nicolas Maduro.

According to the report, the year with the highest number of blockages was 2016, with 1050, followed by 2018, with 106, while in 2021 there were 30 requests. The document does not detail the characteristics or nature of the restricted sites, but it does reflect that in 2019, 27 URLs (addresses) of “gambling and betting siteswere targeted.

According to Espacio Publico, 45 of Venezuela’s 100 news portals are currently blocked. According to international standards, blocking must take place as a result of judges’ orders or court rulings, but in most cases recorded in this country, there is no information about the reason for URL restrictions. , protests Carlos Correa.

If the data corresponds to only one of the telecommunications companies operating in Venezuela, “one must think that the situation is similar in the others“, he adds. Besides Telefonica, the country has two other mobile operators, one of which is public. AFP unsuccessfully sought a comment from Conatel, but agency spokespersons declined to comment. She also tried unsuccessfully to contact representatives of the other telephone companies.

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