Cape Telecommunication Usersí Forum
Response to Government Notice No. 274 of March 23, 2001 the proposed Interception and Monitoring Bill, currently under consideration by the Portfolio Committee on
The Cape Telecommunications Usersí Forum (CTUF) welcomes the opportunity afforded by the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development to respond to the proposed Interception and Monitoring Bill, tabled before Parliament on 18 July 2001.
From the outset of this response, CTUF wishes to distance itself from several previous responses from the public sphere that have construed the Interception and Monitoring Bill as a form of censorship, and which CTUF believes to be ill-considered.
Rather, CTUF commends the intent of Government through the Interception and Monitoring Bill to tighten the procedural and legal criteria as to the interception and monitoring of communications in South Africa and to protect telecommunication services users from unlawful infringements of their privacy. We believe that such a Bill in the interest of the South African public, and the users of telecommunications technologies. We welcome and support Government action in this regard.
Having said this, we have comment in three areas: these relate to the procedures by which interception and monitoring may be authorised, including issues of public oversight; certain technology considerations; and lastly regarding the economic impact of the proposed Interception and Monitoring Bill.
In this section CTUF requests further clarification, and makes certain recommendations, as per requirements in respect to the processes encompassed in the Interception and Monitoring Bill.
a)That the implications arising out of the Interception and Monitoring Bill pertaining to corporate communication usage policies (for example, the rights of employees to reasonable access to technologies such as electronic mail and the Internet) be assessed.
b)That it is important that the security forces be publicly accountable and that there be oversight of all interception and monitoring activity. CTUF recommends that the government appoint a Commissioner to monitor the process and issue of all warrants in terms of the Interception and Monitoring Bill. The Commissioner should have the right randomly to inspect communication centres to ensure that any monitoring or interception of communications takes place within the ambit of the Interception and Monitoring Bill. The Commissioner should report annually to Parliament on the number of warrants issued, the agencies to which they were issued, the number of resulting prosecutions and any other information that might be deemed relevant.
CTUF wishes to note the following technology related implications of the Interception and Monitoring Bill:
a)CTUF wishes to commend Government in that compliance to the Interception and Monitoring Bill will ensure that service providers are technically and legally competent to offer their telecommunication services to the market. We also support and encourage mandatory privacy policies for all communications service providers.
b)However, it is noted that the technical design of new telecommunication and communications technologies may need to ensure that compliance to the Interception and Monitoring Bill is adhered to before those technologies can be implemented in the market. This may not necessarily limit technological innovation in this sector but may impact negatively on the commercial application of new technologies in the market.
CTUF would like to indicate certain concerns as per the economic implications of the Interception and Monitoring Bill. CTUF suggests that further consideration, investigation and public accountability be given to:
a)The cost of compliance to smaller service providers (for example, Internet Service Providers) in terms of the setting up, administration and maintenance of interception and monitoring equipment and the administration of compliance (for example, the capacity needed to verify a warrant) as per the provision of the Interception and Monitoring Bill. It may be the case that these costs may unfairly burden these smaller service providers, create a barrier to entry in the market, and thereby reduce competition to the detriment of users.
b)The cost to be borne by the consumer as a result of compliance to the Interception and Monitoring Bill as a result of the possible knock-on effect of these costs being passed onto to consumers by service providers as a result of the necessary installation of interception and monitoring equipment -- the cost of which cannot be recovered from the state by the service provider.
Further to 3b) above, the cost to be borne by the taxpayer for the establishment and operation of central monitoring centres. In this case, it would be fiscally responsible to view the establishment of a central monitoring centre, in the singular, which is shared among all authorised institutions, as intimated in the
Section 8(1) of the proposed Interception and Monitoring Bill.
The Cape Telecommunications Usersí Forum (CTUF) was initially formed in March 2001 to workshop a response to the Department of Communicationsí draft telecommunications policy directions. CTUF aims to submit consensus-based representations to Government on telecommunications, IT and related issues.
CTUF supports the ideals of equitable development, job creation and economic growth that benefit all South Africans. We believe the best way to achieve this in the telecommunications and Internet sectors is through liberalisation, and that increased competition promotes innovation and the expansion of services.
CTUF includes users from the academic, business, media and government sectors who provide input in their individual capacities. It operates as a voluntary forum through a public e-mail list and occasional meetings around issues of interest.
See our website: www.ctuf.za.org.
Alan Levin Pam Sykes Glen Thompson