High Court quashes plan to tap private phone calls

The High Court has quashed plans by the government to tap private telephone calls, read text messages and review mobile money transactions. In a decision delivered earlier on this week, Justice John Mativo said the plan is a breach of rights to privacy and consumer rights.

Similarly, Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) Secretary-General Stephen Mutoro welcomed the decision. He urged the government to discard the plan and find a better way of dealing with counterfeit devices.

The move would have allowed the government to get access to information on the subscribers International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI), IMSI, among other systems.

Illegal devices

Communications Authority, through its Director-General Francis Wangusi argued that it was necessary to create an Equipment Identification Register (EIR) to detect all devices, isolate the illegal ones and deny them services.

He said CA would also have a chance of mopping-up illegal devices in the country.

Earlier on this year, the government ordered Safaricom, Airtel and Orange-Telkom Kenya to allow Broadband Communications Services Ltd to tap into their computers.

Mr Wangusi explained that it was part of its efforts to deal with counterfeit devices. He further added that CA has the mandate of monitoring compliance with the Kenya Information Communications Act (KICA).

Mr Wangusi further said the DMS can only access information on a mobile service provider network as part of the clean-up process. Consequently, the Government can listen in on a private conversation and access personal data, but after obtaining a permit from the court.

Meanwhile, activist Okiya Omtatah, had moved to court to block the plan, saying it would amount to intruding into people’s privacy. According to him, the government had failed to justify the need for eavesdropping on private communication and that the claim of identifying counterfeit devices was a ploy to spy on calls, text messages and money transactions.

Safaricom spoke against the system because of possible autonomous access to customers’ information by the Broadband Communications.

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    Written by James Mulanda

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