Opposition leader spells out shortfalls in telco bill


OPPOSITION Leader Matthew Wale has raised fears on hackers intruding the system of Our Telekom and Bmobile to remove private data of individuals after registration of sim cards.

Speaking on the debate of the Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill 2021 in Parliament yesterday, Wale said:

“Now that the Bill is compelling individuals to provide their private data, it must also protect that information from hackers, commercial harvesters and other malign actors domestically or overseas.

“Who is liable when private individual data is harvested from the registers?

“This is a significant neglect.

“Once law requires the collection of private individual data in today’s world, the law must also protect that data,” he said.

Wale said the register is to be maintained by individual service providers, and the information cannot be shared without a court order.

“Is there a place for the Regulator to host a centralized register and regulate protocols on and levels of access to information?

“In the current proposal, who owns the register? It is maintained by the service providers, but who has ownership control of the data?”

Wale said: “We read of data harvesting by hackers and sale of data and private information that happens around the world.”

He said it was reported last year that a Chinese company harvested data from 40 people in Solomon Islands.

“This raises the significance of the need for clarity on ownership of the registers and the data they contain,” he said.

In addition, Wale said illegal intercept and back-end operations by systems and equipment vendors are a particular vulnerability identified by service providers to the privacy of user data.

He said the Bill makes no attempt to address this critical vulnerability.

“This is the greatest threat to the integrity of our entire telecommunications systems and user data.

“And because the Bill compels the collection of private data, it naturally creates the need for protection of that data – but the Bill does not do this in its current form. This is a very serious oversight,” he said.

Wale said both service providers stated that they were not thoroughly consulted beyond a general introduction to the issues the ministry wanted the Bill to address.

“This is a terrible neglect of critical stakeholders in the matters that the Bill seeks to address,” he said.

Debate continues in Parliament today.

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