Government dismisses mass surveillance concern

WINDHOEK: The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) has once again brushed off claims that the government's decision to compel Namibians to register their SIM cards will lead to mass surveillance by the State. The ministry on Wednesday dismissed an assertion by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) that State security agencies, including the Namibia Central Intelligence Service (NCIS), might use the process to spy on the public. 'With mandatory SIM card registration, the law, through regulations gazetted in 2021, eases and enables indiscriminate mass surveillance of the digital communications of everyone operating a SIM card or internet connection in Namibia,' a recent IPPR research article, which was reported in the local press, indicated. MICT Executive Director Audrin Mathe rebuffed this, saying the assertion 'lacks merit and undermines' the government's effort to combat cybercrimes. 'It is imperative to clarify that law enforcement agencies can only access SIM users' cal l data following a reported crime and upon issuance of a warrant by a judge,' Mathe said in a statement. He added that the NCIS Act of 1997 and Terrorism Act that are already in operation regulate the interception, permitting it only under judicial authorisation. 'Therefore, mobile service providers are not authorised to intercept communications, rather, this authority lies solely with law enforcement agencies,' he said. The government official said the mandatory registration of SIM cards is in line with Section 73 of the Communications Act of 2009. 'We urge the public to utilise the grace period provided and register their SIM cards before 31 March 2024 to avoid any disconnection of service,' Mathe said. Source: The Namibia Press Agency