Another hurdle for Spy Machine

TELECOMS

|
Image: By BiztechAfrica
Another hurdle for Spy Machine

By Gregory Gondwe, Blantyre, Malawi

The High Court in Blantyre on Friday stopped the Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA) from going ahead with the implementation of the Consolidated ICT Regulatory Management Systems (CIRMS) famed as the ‘Spy Machine’.

This ruling comes a year after the another judge who presided over the matter as a commercial case restrained MACRA from getting Call Details Records (CDRs) from the country’s telephone operators, as a requirement to have the machine operational.

And on Friday, High Court Judge Justice Healy Potani prohibited MACRA from going ahead with the installation of the machine because MACRA has no mandate, powers or jurisdiction to implement the CIRMS.

“It is unreasonable, [and] not necessary in an open and democratic society,” said Justice Potani who also said such an action is not recognised by international human rights standard.  

Concerned citizens, Eric Sabwera and Hophmally Makande took the matter to court where they challenged the use of the machine to monitor and analyse all telecommunication traffic.

They also challenged the directive by MACRA to all telecommunication operators to provide it with subscribers CDRs.

In their argument, the two argued that the decision by MACRA was unreasonable, not backed by any law and would infringe upon their constitutional right to privacy.

Justice Potani ruled that MACRA has failed to satisfy six necessary requirements that the operation must be prescribed by law, reasonable, recognised by international human rights standards, necessary in an open and democratic society, of general application and must not negate the essential content of the right to privacy.

“The impression and implication I get is that the machine could be set up in such a manner that would make it capable of tapping the content of telecommunications traffic. One would tend to wonder, justifiably with suspicion, why MACRA would opt to use a system or gadget that has great potential of abuse,” ruled the Judge.

This was based on MACRA’s argument during the hearing when it said as a regulator; it has the right to monitor the performance of telecommunications service providers particularly on quality, efficiency and reliability of service and revenue generated.

However the judge squashed this argument by stating that he had very serious doubts that MACRA would really need caller details in order to monitor performance, quality of service or indeed revenue generated.

Since the machine was going to be used to access all call subscriber details, including what numbers a mobile phone had called, the judge declared that this was an invasion of people’s privacy.

“The machine has the potential to be abused as it had the capability to eavesdrop into people’s conversations, emails and text messages,” pointed out the Judge.

MACRA has since indicated that they are going to appeal against the ruling.

Director of Legal Services for MACRA James Kaphale said for the judgement which is that the machine has the capability to listen into a phone conversation and therefore it will be abused.

“The fact that we have a gun does not mean that we intend to shoot people with it,” argued Kaphale.

But in the event that they have lost the appeal stage, MACRA’s board will consult with govt on what to do with the machine.

Politicians and human rights activists led mass protest and challenged implementation of the ‘spy machine’ as it was meant to be snooping on people’s conversation, checking on people’s emails and texts which sent panic.

The country’s four operators, Malawi Telecommunication Limited (MTL), Telecom Networks of Malawi (TNM), Airtel Malawi and Access Communications Limited (ACL) also challenged MACRA on the machine.

In their submission MACRA argued that while the machine was capable of listening into people’s conversation, MACRA had no intention to use it for that purpose but only wanted information on calling numbers, dialled numbers, duration of calls, devices used and the call junction and location of the caller.

During his ruling Justice Potani referred to the first ruling in the commercial case of 2011 where the presiding judge ruled against MACRA.

“I would tend to agree that it is unreasonable and not necessary in an open and democratic society for subscribers call details to be laid bare wholesale,” said Justice Potani in agreement in the first ruling.

“The reliefs sought by the applicants are therefore granted and accordingly it is ordered that the respondent [MACRA] has no mandate, powers and jurisdiction to implement its decision and there it’s prohibited and restrained from implementing the decision,” said the judge.

President of Association of telecom Operators Saulos Chilima said as an industry, they have been saying all along that this machine does not add any value to anyone.

“We hope this judgement will put the matter to rest and that moves are made to recover the hard-earned millions of American dollars paid out as deposit for the machine,” said Chilima who is also Managing Director for Airtel Malawi.



Share the News

Get Daily Newsletter

Search News

comments powered by Disqus

MORE TELECOMS NEWS

Tigo Business – Building trusted business partner relationships with clients

CEO of Tigo Ghana, Roshi Motman Tigo Business has increased and empowered its account management team to improve its overall customer service experience.  Read More

Danbatta seeks Reps’ cooperation on telecom regulations

The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, has called for more cooperation and understanding of members of the House of Representatives, on regulatory functions of the commission. Read More

Orange completes acquisition of Airtel in Burkina Faso

Orange has announced that, together with its subsidiary Orange Côte d’Ivoire, it has completed the acquisition of 100% of the mobile operator Airtel in Burkina Faso.  Read More

MTN Ghana goes live with 4G LTE in grand style

The plush iconic MTN House, home to MTN Ghana’s operations came to a standstill on Tuesday, as the country’s telecom leader officially unveiled its latest 4G LTE services across the length and breadth of Ghana.  Read More

NCC to end telcos’ voluntary adherence to corporate governance

  Felix Adeoye; Prof Umar Dambatta and Communications Technology Minister Adebayo Shittu After more than one year of voluntary adherence by telcos to the Corporate Governance Code for the industry, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) yesterday started a journey that will lead to mandatory enforcement. Read More

Telkom Kenya appoints new CEO

Telkom Kenya has announced the appointment of Aldo Mareuse as the Chief Executive Officer and member of the Board of Directors. Read More

N1.04tr NCC fine: MTN agrees on N330b staggered payment

MTN Nigeria and the Nigeria Communications Commission have reached an amicable settlement in the matter of the N1.04trillion fine imposed by the regulator in October last year. Read More

MTN Nigerian fine payment terms resolved

MTN has announced that the matter of its fine has been resolved with the Federal Government of Nigeria. Read More

NCC to review 2.6GHz spectrum auction

The Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof Umar Garba Danbatta, says the Commission will soon meet with operators over the recent auction of 2.6GHz spectrum. Read More

Vodafone Ghana committed to use technology to address critical health issues

The new Chief Executive Officer of Vodafone Ghana, Yolanda Cuba, has reiterated Vodafone Ghana’s commitment to using technology to address critical health issues such as maternal and infant mortality in the country.  Read More

PRESS OFFICES

Sage EnterpriseSAP AfricaTrust PayVMWareSamsung ElectronicsMitsumi DistributionPhoenix DistributionMTN BusinessSchneider ElectricMultichoiceMicrosoft 4AfrikaNetworks UnlimitedArbor NetworksEricssonTigo Ghana

FEATURED STORY

Government should encourage youths in ICT earlyGovernment should encourage youths in ICT early

Youths should be given more encouragement to develop their ICT skills, an 11-year-old app developer told Kokumo Goodie.

IN DEPTH

IBM Opens First Cloud Data Centre in South AfricaIBM Opens First Cloud Data Centre in South Africa

IBM is opening a new IBM Cloud Data Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa. The new cloud center is the result of a close collaboration with Gijima and Vodacom and is designed to support cloud adoption and customer demand across the continent.  

COMPANY NEWS

Tigo, JI and GES equip teachers on child online protection initiative

Tigo, in partnership with J Initiative (JI), a youth focused non-governmental organisation in Ghana, have committed to protecting children online through policy advocacy, awareness creation, public education ...

Ericsson and King’s College London demonstrate 5G tactile robotic surgery

Ericsson and King’s College London will be demonstrating a 5G use case of tactile robotic surgery at 5G World 2016 in London on 29-30 June.