Law enforcement agencies have traditionally worked closely with telecommunications companies to formulate arrangements that would make phone systems "wiretap friendly." Such arrangements range from allowing police physical access to telephone exchanges, to installing equipment to automate the interception.
Electronic surveillance is widely used by governments of both East and West, whether singly or in combination. Used by intelligence agencies, especially in espionage and counter-espionage activities. It is increasingly used by corporations for purposes of industrial espionage and also used by organized crime. In 1985 the USA National Security Agency initiated a five-year programme, estimated to cost up to $40 million, to encode most of the millions of electronic messages exchanged by USA government and defence contractors to counteract surveillance by the USSR. Because of the success of this programme, it is reported that the USA government is resisting the transfer of more sophisticated telecommunications (especially fibre optic systems) to the USSR because it would make it more difficult to track communications and would jeopardize the extensive investment in satellite monitoring facilities.
There are widespread violations of laws relating to surveillance of communications, even in the most democratic of countries. The U.S. State Department's annual review of human rights violations finds that over 90 countries engage in illegally monitoring the communications of political opponents, human rights workers, journalists and labour organizers. In France, a government commission estimated in 1996 that there were over 100,000 wiretaps conducted by private parties, many on behalf of government agencies. In Japan, police were recently fined 2.5 million yen for illegally wiretapping members of the Communist party.