The previous government under UPA had sought to tap the conversations of Vodafone users, a comprehensive report from the company said on Friday.
India was among 29 countries to make requests to the British telecommunication giant to intercept into public's conversations, Vodafone said.
Citing Indian laws on secrecy, the company, in its first ever exhaustive "Law Enforcement Disclosure report," did not however say how many times the Indian government made requests for tapping conversations. It did not also mention if they actually abided by the orders from the countries.
The report gives a country-to-country analysis of law enforcement demands received based on the data gathered from local licensed communications operators. Vodafone received "lawful demand for assistance from a law enforcement agency or government authority between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2014." India was among the countries which requested Vodafone for "lawful interception...and access to communications data", the report said.
The telecommunication giant added that Indian law obliges service providers to maintain extreme secrecy on lawful interception. However, it cited various ways in which Indian government can lawfully request to intercept real-time conversations.
Citing rules under Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, and the Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Rules, 2007 it said:
"Either the Secretary to the Ministry of Home Affairs (in case of the central Government) or the Secretary to the Home Department (in case of the state government) or a person above the rank of Joint Secretary (in unavoidable circumstances) authorised by the respective government, during a public emergency or in the interests of public safety, may issue a written order directing an interception, if the official in question believes that it is necessary to do so in the: (a) interest of sovereignty and integrity of India; (b) the security of the State; (c) friendly relations with foreign states; (d) public order; or (e) the prevention of incitement of offences."
The report explained the same in the section dealing with India'a Provision of real-time lawful interception assistance.
The report, however, said that in "Albania, Egypt, Hungary, India, Malta, Qatar, Romania, South Africa and Turkey, it is unlawful to disclose any information related to wiretapping or interception of the content of phone calls and messages including whether such capabilities exist."
Releasing the large scale scope of surveillance, none-the-less, the company said that in six countries where it operates – names of which were not revealed – secret wires or "pipes" were used directly to listen in to live conversations of people.
Vodafone's group privacy officer, Stephen Deadman, told the Guardian, "These pipes exist, the direct access model exists. We are making a call to end direct access as a means of government agencies obtaining people's communication data. Without an official warrant, there is no external visibility. If we receive a demand we can push back against the agency. The fact that a government has to issue a piece of paper is an important constraint on how powers are used."