High Court Declares Kenya’s Communication Authority Monitoring System Illegal

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Late last year, the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) embarked on a plan to install a Device Management System (DMS) that was meant to combat fraudulent international calls coming from Kenya to Rwanda. According to CA, the government of Rwanda complained that “sim boxing operations in Kenya are being used to terminate international traffic, which seemingly appears to be originating from a Kenyan operator into Rwanda resulting into loss of revenue for the country.”

The idea of installing a DMS, which monitors all outgoing and incoming calls and texts from subscribers, did not sit well with multiple industry players. For instance, the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) insisted that CA’s reasons for installing the ‘spying’ system are an ostensible reason that will somehow give them direct access to confidential data in people’s phones, which is against privacy laws. Safaricom had also publicly refused to corporate with CA and install the DMS, citing that it is highly probable that third parties may have access to calls and sensitive text messages such as financial details.

However, at that time, CA said that the DMS would be used to get rid of counterfeit devices such as fake phones and SIM boxes that disguise international calls. Since then, the matter has been in the hands of the judiciary (thanks to a suit filed by activist Okiya Omtatah) until today when the High Court in Kenya ruled that installation of the DNS is illegal. The High Court said that CA’s plans to monitor mobile phones is unconstitutional and goes against consumer rights.

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