Kenyan court declares plan to snoop on phones illegal

Thursday April 19 2018

A man using a mobile phone. A Kenyan court has

A man using a mobile phone. A Kenyan court has declared plan to tap private phone conversations illegal and a violation of consumer rights. FILE PHOTO | NATION 

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A Kenyan court has declared unconstitutional the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) plan requiring mobile service providers to give them access to their systems in a bid to guard against fake gadgets.

The case was filed by activist Okiya Omtatah who claimed that the move allows CA to access Kenyans' private information such as mobile transactions information.

The telecoms sector regulator had last year acquired a device which can collect text, voice and identity data from mobile phones.

Legal risks

The court's decision is a blow to the government plan that was opposed by sector players including market-leader Safaricom which raised concern that the device management system (DMS) could be used as a backdoor to gain access to sensitive customer data and exposing operators to legal risks.

Airtel Kenya had at the time declined to comment on the monitoring system, but had said that it was in talks with the CA on how to operate it “without infringing on the consumers’ rights.”

On its part, CA said it had embarked on the plan after complaints by Rwanda that unregistered phones were being used by Kenyan fraudsters to con unsuspecting users.

He said the device would help tackle the vice. However, the plan caused an uproar as many saw it as an infringement of mobile phone users' privacy.