General News of Thursday, 14 June 2018
Claims of a possible breach of the right to privacy in the controversial KelniGVG traffic monitoring contract has been floored by Legislator for Gomoa West Constituency, Alexander Kodwo Kom Abban.
Mr. Abban says the same laws that restrict the telcos from divulging personal information of subscribers can be invoked on KelniGVG – assuming there is the possibility that the IT firm can access such private information during its real-time monitoring of calls and data.
The lawyer and Vice Chairman of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament made the comments on current affairs programme, The Hard Truth, which aired on Wednesday evening on MultiTV.
The Communication Ministry’s attempt to monitor call traffic in real-time in a bid to increase its supervisory role on tax compliance has met stiff opposition from the telcos and some civil society organisations led by think tank, IMANI Africa.
The concerns have focused, to a large extent, on a possible breach of telco subscribers’ fundamental human rights to privacy during traffic monitoring.
The Communications Ministry and the National Communications Authority (NCA) have moved to quell these concerns, insisting that KelniGVG equipment that will be used for real-time monitoring are not cable of spying on consumers.
But this assurance does not seem to have sunk in as two private citizens, Sara Asafu-Adjaye and Maximus Amertogoh, have dragged Government to court to halt the implementation of the $89 million contract over the same privacy concerns.
Law applies to KelniGVG
Speaking on The Hard Truth, Alexander Kodwo Kom Abban noted although Constitution backs the protection of the fundamental right to privacy (in Chapter 18(2)) it also states in Chapter 12 that this right to privacy must be upheld, not only by the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary, but all other organs of government and its agencies…”
He explains that if that law makes it criminal for the telcos to spy on their subscribers at will, then that same law will sanction KelniGVG should it also breach the Constitution.
“It is a competition between two imperatives: right to privacy and the public interest of getting exigible tax. The narrative goes as though the telcos for the reason that we have individual contracts with them, they are better placed to keep our conversation and our data…and keep them from being encroached upon than KelniGVG.
“Why do we think so? Is it just because there is a contract between you and the telco? So why can’t we also use laws in such a way that KelniGVG can also not disclose our information to anybody?” he quizzed.
He is not ruling out a deliberate attempt by the telcos to frustrate government’s drive to improve tax collection from them.
“I hope that the telcos are not behind this lawsuit,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Ursula Owusu-Ekuful-led Communications Ministry is not relenting on its determination to implement the contract despite the refusal of the telcos to allow KelniGVG to plug into their system.
On Wednesday, the Ministry scheduled a meeting with the NCA and the telcos to discuss the way forward.