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Big Brother isn`t so bad

Instead of reacting negatively to all "Big Brother"-flavoured laws, such as the new Inception and Monitoring bill, we should embrace them for what they are - methods to protect us, the public.
Read time 3min 40sec

The latest legislation hot from cabinet legitimises the bugging of cellphones. The Interception and Monitoring Bill, which is still unavailable online for analysis, states that cellular service providers have to ensure that all of the telecoms traffic over their networks can be monitored - at their own cost.

[VIDEO]Furthermore, any service provider entering into a contract with a subscriber must acquire their names, addresses and ID numbers.

Having read many of the online comments accusing this move as violating the constitution, invading privacy, and other rants, one must wonder whether those with the loudest voices protest too much. With nine million cellular users in SA, I will certainly speak with confidence, knowing that the chance of someone listening to my call is minimal.

Catering to criminals

Instead of complaining bitterly, I have a suggestion for those who feel the law will impede on their freedom. In the spirit of the new economy, set up a Web site for the trading of prepaid cellular SIM cards. Since there is no contract involved, the cellular providers will not have your details, and if cards are constantly traded, the law enforcement agencies will be thrown off the scent - if they ever pick it up - as a person with something to hide could use a new number every week.

I am tired of every new law regarding the Internet or telephony being ridiculed by some members of the public in a knee-jerk reaction.

Jason Norwood-Young, Technology editor, ITWeb

Such a site would offer two sources of revenue. First of all, you could offer a service to SMS all of your users` contacts, informing them of the new number, and charge a small fee for it.

Secondly, you are reaching a niche target market: criminals! Advertising to these guys would be like selling walking sticks at an old age home. They have a large expendable income, and want to spend it while they are still alive. They probably won`t buy cars, TVs, or computers, since they can simply steal new ones.

Things that they might pay for would be airplane tickets to exotic locations with no extradition treaties (with the opportunity to cross-sell a new passport), good lawyers, offshore investment, and maybe even map services with getaway routes and banks clearly marked.

Only joking

Okay, I admit that this is all tongue in cheek. I am, however, tired of every new law regarding the Internet or telephony being ridiculed by some members of the public in a knee-jerk reaction opposing this "Big Brother" concept (although admittedly, opinion voiced in public forums has been balanced by those supporting and those attacking the legislation).

The only criticism I can justifiably lay against this bill from what I know of it is that it requires the cellular providers to foot the bill (in the monetary, not legal, sense), but many speculate that they may have the equipment in place already. In any case, both Vodacom and MTN are profitable, and can no doubt afford a cost that could lead to lower crime in our country. If they cannot, the costs will be passed to their subscribers.

I have in the past - in my last Double Take, in fact - criticised legislation, but not because of what it is trying to accomplish, but rather for the technical issues regarding its implementation. Hopefully my criticism, and that of others involved in the industry, will help government pen tighter laws with less loopholes and greater benefit to all of our law-abiding citizens.

The law does inevitably reach a point where it crosses the boundaries of stopping criminal activities and starts to enforce certain morals which it deems as unethical rather than illegal upon the masses. This would be the time to criticise the intent of the law. SA`s foray into technology law is fairly new, and it should be quite some time before we reach this crux. When that happens, I will be among the first to kick up a fuss.

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