Government’s Plan to Tap Into Private Phone Conversations Declared Illegal

April 20, 2018

The government’s plan to spy on private mobile phone conversations through broadband communication networks has suffered a major blow.

Ths after the High Court declared the plan illegal and a gross violation of consumer rights.

Ruling on Thursday in a case filed by activist Okiya Omtatah, Justice John Mativo said the plan by the Communications Authority of Kenya to install spy gadgets was adopted in a manner inconsistent with the Constitution.

He added that there wasn’t adequate public participation prior to its adoption and implementation.

The Device Management System (DMS) was to be implemented through Safaricom, Telkom, and Airtel.

“Subscribers of the three mobile companies were not engaged at all in the public consultation hence [the plan] is null and void for all purposes,” ruled Mativo.

The Judge further noted that the Communications Authority was obligated to draft and implement a meaningful programme of public participation and stakeholder engagement in the process leading to the decision, policy, and implementation of the system.

Mativo subsequently prohibited the CA from implementing the decision or installing any connectivity between the DMS and the mobile companies, to access information on the IMEI, IMSI, MSISDN, and CDRs of their subscribers.

Late last year, the CA embarked on the plan that was meant to combat fraudulent international calls coming from Kenya to Rwanda.

According to the communications regulator, the government of Rwanda complained that “sim boxing operations in Kenya are being used to terminate international traffic, which seemingly appears to be originating from a Kenyan operator into Rwanda resulting into loss of revenue for the country.”

The CA had argued that the DMS would be used to get rid of counterfeit devices such as fake phones and SIM boxes that disguise international calls.

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