R2K has filed PAIA requests with the network operators for information about how often they hand over sensitive customer information

Recently the Daily Maverick reported on a legal loophole that allows magistrates to authorise thousands of ‘surveillance operations’ every year, forcing telecommunications companies such as MTN, Vodacom, Telkom and Cell C to hand over sensitive information about their customers’ communications – their call records. All of this is happening parallel to the provisions of RICA1, South Africa’s main surveillance law.

We don’t know how often this loophole is used, but we need to know. This is why R2K has filed requests for information using the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) asking all major telecoms companies to disclose how often the loophole is used. PAIA states that a request for information must get a response within 30 days.

While there is growing awareness on RICA’s surveillance protocols, which states that someone’s communication may only be intercepted if authorised by a specially appointed judge (the “designated judge”), few people are aware that surveillance is also being authorised outside RICA – possibly at a far higher rate.