Closing criminals’ mobile networks

1 July 2009

South African mobile phone companies are now required to capture and verify their customers’ names, addresses and ID numbers, under a new law designed to help the authorities to combat crime in the country.

Speaking in Cape Town this week, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Amendment Act, which became law on 1 July, was in line with legislation adopted by many other countries.

Privacy

Radebe assured South Africans that the law was not designed to enable prying on people’s private lives, but was necessitated by the fact that criminals use mobile phone technology to plan and execute crimes.

The new law allows the state to intercept communication only when it has reason to believe that a serious offence has been or will be committed, and on the issuing of an interception direction by a designated judge.

Any person found using the interception technology without a judge’s authority would face a fine of up to R2-million, increasing to up to R5-million in the case of a company, Radebe said.

18-month window

South African mobile phone companies are now prohibited from activating cellular subscriber identity module (SIM) cards without first capturing and verifying personal details, including customer’s names, addresses and ID numbers.

The companies also have 18 months to capture and verify their customers’ information. SIM cards for which user information is lacking after this period will be blocked.

“If the particulars are not captured within that period, the service provider must terminate the service associated with the SIM card,” Radebe said, adding that service providers that did not comply with the Act would face harsh penalties.

Awareness campaigns

Mobile service providers MTN, Cell C and Vodacom have said they would conduct a marketing campaign to educate consumers about the new Act.

Subscribers can expect SMSs, voicemail and as other marketing informing them of what they would need to do in order to comply with the law.

SAinfo reporter and BuaNews

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