SA JOUR­NAL­ISTS SPIED ON, SCCOM AS­SURES PRI­VACY

… says it is only a court or­der that a sub­scriber’s in­for­ma­tion can be dis­closed to a third party

Swazi Observer - - NATIONAL NEWS - By Sa­belo Ma­jola

THE Swazi­land Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion (SCCOM) has as­sured lo­cal jour­nal­ists and the gen­eral pub­lic that the reg­is­tra­tion of all mo­bile sub­scribers in the coun­try will not com­pro­mise their pri­vacy.

This comes af­ter a South African ad­vo­cacy group Right2Know (R2K) called for an end to SIM card reg­is­tra­tion af­ter it emerged that jour­nal­ists in that coun­try were spied on by the state se­cu­rity agency through the Reg­u­la­tion of In­ter­cep­tion Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Act (RICA), which is sim­i­lar to the lo­cal on­go­ing VELA SIM card reg­is­tra­tion, ini­ti­ated by the reg­u­la­tory body.

When quizzed on the guar­an­tee that lo­cal jour­nal­ists have to pri­vacy and not be­ing spied on, SCCOM said the com­mis­sion ce­mented the pro­tec­tion of con­sumers through a clause on con­fi­den­tial­ity of cus­tomer in­for­ma­tion in the terms and con­di­tions of the li­censes is­sued by the com­mis­sion to op­er­a­tors.

The clause pro­vides that the li­censee shall not, un­der any cir­cum­stances what­so­ever, dis­close any in­for­ma­tion about a cus­tomer to any third party ex­cept to the ex­tent that such in­for­ma­tion is re­quired in com­pli­ance with a court or­der or an ap­pli­ca­ble statu­tory obli­ga­tion.

“This is the only ex­cep­tion al­lowed in law glob­ally with re­gard to cus­tomer in­for­ma­tion and un­less the cus­tomer con­cerned agrees in writ­ing that such in­for­ma­tion be re­leased. Fur­ther, the li­cence con­di­tions make it an obli­ga­tion for li­censees to de­velop and im­ple­ment a pol­icy to en­sure the safety and se­cu­rity of cus­tomer in­for­ma­tion at all ma­te­rial times.

In essence there­fore, the com­mis­sion’s po­si­tion, which as stated above has been trans­lated into li­cence terms, is that in­for­ma­tion about a cus­tomer may only be law­fully ob­tained through a court or­der or un­der a statu­tory pro­vi­sion or upon ex­press au­tho­ri­sa­tion by that cus­tomer,” said SCCOM.

Man­date

The com­mis­sion said the scope of their man­date does not seg­re­gate ac­cord­ing to spe­cific pro­fes­sions, but is univer­sal and cov­ers all ci­ti­zens.

Sec­tion 7(c) en­joins the com­mis­sion to en­sure end-user pro­tec­tion and pri­vacy.

The Sub­scriber Reg­is­tra­tion Reg­u­la­tion pro­vides a frame­work for the reg­is­tra­tion of all mo­bile sub­scribers in the coun­try and the pro­tec­tion of the sub­scriber in­for­ma­tion col­lected.

Ac­cord­ing to the com­mis­sion, this is con­tained in the reg­u­la­tions un­der part V1, en­ti­tled; data pro­tec­tion and con­fi­den­tial­ity and con­sumer aware­ness which pro­vides that a li­censee shall take all rea­son­able pre­cau­tions to pre­serve the in­tegrity and pre­vent any cor­rup­tion, loss or unau­tho­rised dis­clo­sure of sub­scriber in­for­ma­tion re­tained and shall take steps to re­strict unau­tho­rized use of sub­scriber in­for­ma­tion.

The com­mis­sion added that any in­for­ma­tion ac­quired out­side this le­gal thresh­old would be in vi­o­la­tion of the cus­tomer’s right to pri­vacy and any li­censee found to have dis­closed such in­for­ma­tion would be in breach of these con­di­tions and shall be li­able to a puni­tive fine meted by the com­mis­sion.

In its re­port, R2K re­vealed that sev­eral jour­nal­ists who have ex­posed cor­rup­tion have been tar­geted in the neigh­bor­ing coun­try and even though RICA was in­tro­duced as a crime-fight­ing mea­sure, the group said there was no con­vinc­ing ev­i­dence that this had im­proved the govern­ment's crime-fight­ing ca­pac­ity.

“Let's re­mem­ber that ev­ery­one has the right to pri­vacy. No­body's com­mu­ni­ca­tion should ever be spied on un­less they are fac­ing a le­git­i­mate in­ves­ti­ga­tion for se­ri­ous crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity. But jour­nal­ists' com­mu­ni­ca­tions are es­pe­cially sen­si­tive,” the group said.

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