Law that allows government to legally spy on citizens without repercussions heads to court

The amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism has instituted Constitutional action against the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (Rica) bill which it says  has given government unfettered levels of access to private information.

In an opinion article for the Mail & GuardianamaBhungane journalist Sam Sole confirmed that an application had been brought to the Constitutional court and that he himself had been a victim of spying as proved by leaked transcripts used by then acting national director of public prosecutions, Mokotedi Mpshe, to revoke president Zuma’s corruption charges.

Worse still, Sole acknowledged that the current Rica law meant that the interception of his communications was completely lawful due to how outdated  and vague the 2002 legislation currently is.

“The core issue is that legislation governing legal interception, the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (Rica), was conceived when most people thought of monitoring communications as being a rare right granted by a judge to officer Koekemoer or agent Sithole to tape and listen in on the conversations of criminals and terrorists,” said Sole.

“This conception was outdated even when the law was passed in 2002  – and now it is light years away from the reality of modern signals intelligence. The law’s safeguards, inadequate then, are dangerously weak now.”

Sole and amaBhungane’s application seeks to remedy Rica’s inconsistencies by firstly addressing where Rica fails to regulate certain activities and secondly to address issues where the legislation does apply, but does so inconsistently.

In addition Sole set out a number of specific grievances he had with law in his Mail & Guardian article including:

  • The target of the interception order is never informed of the order.
  • There is no clear procedure for when state officials are examining, copying, sharing, sorting through, using, destroying and/or storing the data.
  • There are no oversight mechanisms for telecom companies holding this data for government.
  • And  there are no systems in place to protect the identity or confidentiality of those communications being intercepted.

You can read the full court application here.

You can read the full Mail and Guardian here.

Read: Syndicates have penetrated SA banks – attorney

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