ISPA Adds Voice To Interception Objections

The Internet Service Providers Association of SA (ISPA) has added its voice to the chorus of concerns regarding the recently promulgated Regulation of Interception of Communications & Communicated-Related Information Act (RICA).

ISPAs members are comprised of 113 large, medium and small Internet service and access providers in South Africa.

From 1 June 2006, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are required to be able to monitor the content of their subscribers electronic communications. This requires the purchase and installation of expensive monitoring equipment. In several other countries, financial support was provided by governments to ISPs.

The lack of response from government regarding ISPAs requests for assistance in meeting the deadline is worrying. Government does not seem fazed that its own efforts to provide public Internet access, via terminals available in some post offices and in telecentres installed by the Universal Service Agency, are in breach of RICA because the details of users are not being recorded, said Greg Massel, Co-chair of ISPA.

The unworkable nature of the legislation is illustrated by the fact that governments expensive new intelligence agency, the Office for Interception Centres (OIC), will only be operational in July 2006. RICA legally obliges ISPs to deliver data traffic to the OIC from May 2006.

RICA provides that small ISPs can apply for exemption from some of the requirements of the Act. Unfortunately, government has been unable to supply an adequate definition of a small ISP. ISPA has nonetheless applied for exemptions on behalf of most of its members.

Any public Internet access facility including telecentres and Internet cafes are required to comply with RICA. The same is true for any provider of Internet access and this would seem to imply that organizations, including government departments, that provide their employees with Internet and email facilities would need to comply with the legislation. Even providers of wireless hotspots at hotels, coffee shops and airports, for example, would need to comply with RICA.

RICAs original crime-fighting objective is laudable but looks certain to be overshadowed by its currently unworkable details. ISPA is not seeking a complete overhaul of RICA but rather guidance and information from government that has not been forthcoming, concluded Mr Massel.

Published: Monday, July 3rd, 2006

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