MTN rejects KelniGVG’s request for customers’ momo details, others

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Telecommunications giant, MTN Ghana has revealed it refused to provide the mobile money details of its customers to KelniGVG Limited.

MTN Ghana made this in its response in a case in which a private citizen has sued in a bid to stop the government from accessing his private information from network providers amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

MTN Ghana, which has been joined to the suit, stressed that it has “utmost respect for the laws of Ghana including the protection of privacy of persons particularly the privacy of its subscribers.”

In line with the Electronic Communications Act, 2008 (Act 775), President Nana Akufo-Addo ordered network service providers to avail user information to aid the dissemination of information.

This development on March 24, was, in theory, to aid with contact tracing for the novel coronavirus management.

According to the Executive Instrument (EI), the network operators are to cooperate with the National Communications Authority Common Platform, which is managed by KelniGVG, to provide information to state agencies in the case of an emergency.

MTN Ghana admitted that it initially had concerns about “the scope of data requirements in view of the constitutional test of necessity and proportionality.”

But KelniGVG appeared to cross the line for MTN when it “proceeded by email to make a request for further data which was neither required by the EI or the NCA [National Communication Authority] detailed guidelines.”

According to MTN Ghana, even for the subscriber details that would have been provided legitimately, their numbers were to be protected with hashing.

However, KelniGVG, per MTN Ghana, “requested not just mobile money transaction details of subscribers but also that the subscribed numbers be un-hashed and therefore supplied without any privacy protection whatsoever.”

MTN Ghana also said it was “deeply disturbed by [KelniGVG’s] attempt to exercise that presidential power by means of an email.”

“There is no way that a person’s mobile money transactions can assist in contact tracing as such transactions cannot by the most basic scientific understanding aid the spread of the novel coronavirus,” the company maintained in its affidavit.

MTN Ghana also revealed it wrote to the NCA on the matter on April 6, 2020.

The NCA is yet to respond to the letter but MTN noted that the NCA also had an “additional request made via email for mobile money data.”

Background

The applicant, who is a private legal practitioner, Francis Kwarteng Arthur, is in court challenging the Electronic Communications Act, 2008 (Act 775) signed by President Nana Akufo-Addo saying it violates mobile users’ rights to privacy.

The emergency legislation signed by President Akufo-Addo on March 24 seeks to provide legal backing to a series of steps undertaken by the government to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In line with the Electronic Communications Act, 2008 (Act 775), the law specifically directs network operators to make available data including all called numbers, mobile money merchant codes and uncashed subscriber mobile money transfer data.

According to the Executive Instrument, the network operators are to cooperate with the National Communications Authority Common Platform to provide information to state agencies in the case of an emergency.

Mr. Arthur is seeking an order to quash the President’s directives because to him, the order “have violated, are violating or are likely to violate” his “fundamental rights and freedoms”.

He is also seeking a perpetual injunction to restrain the government, Kelni GVG and the NCA “from using the Executive Instrument to procure the applicants’ personal information from” Vodafone Ghana, his network provider.

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