… As Cabinet moots new spy regulation
By Elvis Muraranganda
THE question of cyber security and invasion of citizen privacy has emerged once again as Cabinet is set to hear submissions advising it to implement a single international gateway (SIG), creating a central entity which will be tasked with controlling, channelling and charging for all texts, voice calls or any other communication entering or going outside the country.
This means that if Cabinet gets its way, the Government will have access to citizens’ private individual communication.
It is further warned that this will give the State access to sensitive information and intel further infringing on the fundamental rights and freedoms of people including the right to privacy as stipulated in the Constitution.
It is understood that the proposal is to be accompanied with an enticing presentation as to how Government and the country will benefit from the implementation of the SIG.
This throws the nation back to the heydays of the infamous ‘Spy Bill’ which sought to intercept electronic communications without a court order. The bill was however withdrawn after an overwhelming uproar and public rejection of it.
According to Telecom spokesperson Oiva Angula, cyber security is very important but Namibia needs to be careful not to make decisions today that will disadvantage future generations.
“I suggest that you ask the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) the questions as they seem to be the initiator of the single gateway idea. We will wait and see the outcome of the Cabinet deliberations on the SIG plan,” Angula added.
On the other hand, ICT Permanent Secretary Mbeuta Ua-Ndjarakana challenged those who have fears that they will be spied on to come out with the proof that this will happen.
“What fears do they have? That is not our intention to spy on citizens and those fears must tell us why they have fears,” Ua-Ndjarakana questioned.
“So are you telling me that the citizens in those advance countries where they have SIG are spied on? What is the economic benefit of spying on people?”
He stressed that the SIG will maximise the potential of the country to manage and guard the information coming and leaving the country.
“Maybe these people do not have fear; they have interests. They must just come out and tell us what their interests are which in not of the nation.”
The Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) claims that it knows nothing of any national discussions around the introduction of an SIG or whether Cabinet will receive such submissions.
“We wish to advise however, that the provision of international gateway constitutes a telecommunications service and would therefore be dealt with in terms of the provisions of the Communications Act and within the parameters of the relevant regulatory framework,” according to Festus Mbandeka, CRAN chief executive officer.
Contrary to Mbandeka’s claim, CRAN last October sought legal opinion from South African lawyers Webber Wentzel Attorneys regarding the proposed SIG licence.
It was these lawyers that advised that current telecommunications licence holders to hold technology neutral service licences which means these licences are entitled to provide international gateway services in Namibia.
The lawyers added CRAN may with the concurrence of the Minister make amendments to the Licence Categories Regulations to include and issue an SIG.
Webber Wentzel Attorneys in a memo sent to CRAN further indicated that the current licence holders will also need to be given an opportunity to object to the proposed amendments.
They further advised that an SIG would impact on the existing rights of the current licencees and also negatively affect the contractual rights of the international telecommunications operators.
It will also impact on concluded international roaming agreements, as well as the contractual rights of the foreign gateway service providers.
According to the attorneys if this function is taken away from the current operators to a one SIG operator, it would be in effect transfer property from one person to another and constitute an expropriation.
They suggested if an SIG is approved, those operators who are currently offering the services should bid to host the service.
Experts have also warned that the SIG will cause frustration and lead to a loss of revenue among telecommunications licence holders such as MTC, TN Mobile and Telecom who are currently in charge of this function.
Techwriter Robert Ndlovu in his article, ‘Understanding this idea of a SIG – Does Zimbabwe need it anyway?’ stressed that activists are saying that this might infringe on people’s privacy but suggested that this is nothing new as countries do monitor both internet and voice calls in line with their national security policies.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015