Regulation of Interception of Communication & Provision of Communication-Related Information Act Amd: Summary of submissions

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Justice and Correctional Services

08 June 2006
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

9 June 2006

Ms F Chohan-Khota (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Summary of submissions by Department (as of 9 June 2006)

The Department of Justice met with the Committee to continue reviewing the summary of submissions on the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-related Information Amendment Bill. Submissions had been received from the major telecommunication service providers. Sections 40 and 62(6) of the Act would be substituted. Submissions dealt with number portability, the capture of the handset number, the correct registration process, the retention by law enforcement of the IMEI number, registration requirements of service providers and a time period for adjustment of the current system to meet legislative requirements.

Questions from Members included the need for registration of the owner of a handset, the relation between SIM cards and handset identification numbers, the portability of numbers across networks, the use of driver licences as identification methods, the acquisition of stolen handsets by criminals and the process of transfer of handsets.

The Chairperson stated that new submissions had been received from the service providers. The Committee valued the input from stakeholders and would incorporate comments into the deliberation process. The target for adoption of the Bill would be the middle of August. Briefings on the Sexual Offences Bill would take place in August.

Mr S Robbertse (Department of Justice) read through the Summary of Submissions. The registration of handsets was discussed. Service providers claimed that the storage of an IMEI number would be difficult in certain circumstances such as second hand sales.

The Chairperson stated that the problem with unregistered handsets was that the owner of a phone could not be traced in the event of a crime being committed. The owner of a handset had to be identified in certain cases. Legislation would stipulate that registration of a cell phone and a SIM card would be mandatory. The problem was a time-lag between the purchase of a phone and activation. A mechanism was required to capture SIM card and handset registration simultaneously.

Ms S Camerer (DA) noted that service providers claimed that they provide a service network and are not in the business of selling phones.

The Chairperson stated that a phone had to be registered on a network in order to be used. Legislation was needed to ensure registration.

Ms Camerer declared that service providers were not aware of the presence of phones until purchase of SIM cards. The origin of phones varied. She questioned the relevance of registration of phones in the case of the use of a stolen handset.

The Chairperson asserted that cards could be traced if used in stolen handsets. The current defence was that ownership of a handset could not be proved. She proposed that the profile of the purchaser should contain the IMEI number. Registration of the handset should occur as soon as a card is activated in the phone in order to certify ownership. A problem arose with the use of a card in another phone or across networks. An individual could have more than one phone registered under their name. Section 39 of the Act stipulated that service providers provide relevant information to law enforcement on request. The IMEI number should be added to the list of criteria. She asked whether this would be technically possible.

Ms Camerer noted the competitive nature of the industry and raised the issue of portability. Service providers would advocate the need for movement between networks.

Mr Robbertse noted that the current Act stated that registration should occur before access to the network was granted.

The Chairperson stated that the challenge with portability lay in allowing an individual to retain the same number. Registration should not hamper the right to portability. The individual had to ensure registration before access to a network was granted. The use of drivers’ licences as identification verification was problematic as only initials and surname were displayed. The verification process would be discussed in due course.

Mr Robbertse relayed the submission by Cell C on provision of addresses of customers.

The Chairperson asked what would transpire when purchasers had no known address. Potential customers should not be excluded by onerous legislation. A balance was needed in terms of the impact of the proposed legislation.

Mr Robbertse stated that service providers had indicated that additional time would be required to develop the registration process and meet with legal requirements. Two months plus one month testing period was requested.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee would furnish all relevant information to the service providers before the recess period to allow the necessary preparation.

Mr Robbertse referred to the submission on law enforcement requiring a separate IMEI registration process.

Ms Camerer stated that input from law enforcement was required to ascertain the relevance of the proposed legislation.

The Chairperson stated that the registration of handsets would prevent the use of stolen handsets for criminal purposes. Currently, only the SIM card has links to the owner. The challenge was to link the handset to the perpetrator. Registration would restrict the use of phones for nefarious purposes.

Ms Camerer pointed out that handsets could be acquired in different ways that would compromise the benefits of registration.

The Chairperson reiterated that certainty on the ownership of handsets was required and service providers should address the issues. Service providers should ensure that correct information was submitted by customers at registration points. Both parties had to be present to provide details in the case of transfer of a phone. The option of a soft-block should also be available where one party could not be present due to distance.

Mr Robbertse declared that Cell C had requested an 18-month time period for development of the necessary systems.

The Chairperson stated that the legislation could be reviewed by the Committee after a 12 month period. Information sessions with the service providers on the registration process could be held.

Ms Camerer stated that the present data capture process had to be adapted to add the additional information and all service providers indicated the need for three months to facilitate changes.

The Chairperson indicated that one way to implement the legislation was to have a set period of implementation followed by a review. A process of the setting of targets based on the customer database could also be followed that included a review. The Committee could instruct the executive to stipulate a particular time period for implementation by means of a resolution. The Department would report on a monthly basis from month one to monitor the implementation of the legislation.

The meeting was adjourned.



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