Civil liberties

Thu, 14 Feb 2013 15:15:03 +0000

The growing invasiveness of Governments and other faceless electronic institutions in the lives of individuals is a major worrisome development.

Nothing is private, secret and confidential any more. At global level satellites with remote imaging systems can take sharp resolution pictures of any part of the world, leaving us naked and defenseless to the prying eyes of big brother above. They are able to deliver real time data to any interested party without any recourse or consideration to political boundaries.

Google images capture world wide  images showing streets and in some cases actualities at any point in time.

At private level surveillance cameras are operated in public places including Banks, ATMs and streets while cell phones and internet services are known to be easily hacked by Governments and individuals who are able to access them using new sophisticated soft wares.

Most of these activities are clandestine, criminalized by rather archaic laws that are yet to catch up with the sophistication of the ever growing and complex electronic industry.

In normal circumstances communication between individuals should be privileged from any form of interference including any form or spying by Government agencies, unless authorized by a Judicial Officer for very cogent reasons.

We are of course aware that Police can always obtain phone logs from phone service providers when they make a written application. These applications need not follow any form or format.

That is why the information that Government intends to extend surveillance even further by vetting incoming and outgoing internet communication is a matter of grave concern. No reason is given for this new development. The ostensible and obvious excuse is security. Government would like us to believe that criminals are utilizing our electronic communication system for terrorist or nefarious ends.

However as the Catholic Bishops of Zambia have observed the more recent exercise of sim registration has many questions and outstanding issues that need to be resolved. It is not clear why sims must be registered and indeed who will make use of the information that will be collected in this exercise.

What we are lacking is a comprehensive law to regulate the entire communication industry in relation to the rights and obligation of the providers, Government and the consumers. Consumer’s rights are not articulated in any form or regulation, leaving the million of subscribers open to abuse.

It is not clear what rights a subscriber has against spying and access of information pertaining to the use of the handsets, modems and other data services they may be using over the electronic field.

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