23 August 2017

South Africa: Cellphone Privacy - Law Enforcement Pulls 70,000 Subscribers' Call Records Each Year - and That's a Minimum Estimate

Photo: Abubaker Lubowa/Daily Monitor
(file photo).

In May this year, Daily Maverick revealed that South African intelligence services legally compelled the major mobile network operators to hand over thousands of customer call records annually. Although call records can play a vital role in criminal investigations, we demonstrated that law enforcement had broken the law to obtain such records with relative ease, at times for nefarious purposes. Subsequently, advocacy group Right2Know approached the four major network operators to provide statistics pertaining to call record releases. But even with the information they availed, the numbers are at best an estimate. And that's a bad thing. Here's why. By HEIDI SWART.

South African law enforcement services frequently use cellphone records to investigate criminal suspects. Call records include the time a call was made or received, the numbers of the parties involved in the call, the call duration, the starting and finishing times of the call, who the owner of the phone and the SIM card is, and an approximate location of the caller during the call. These records allow law enforcement to build up an accurate picture of your daily routine - where you sleep, who you associate with, who is closest to you, where you go for your...

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