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EI 63 Case: MTN defends subscriber privacy rights

MOBILE TELECOMMUNICATION Network (MTN) has mounted a fierce defence for the rights of the over 15 million persons who subscribe to its communication network and other services.

The defence is  contained in an affidavit the telecommunication giant filed on May 20, 2020 at the Human Rights High Court in Accra on May 20, 2020 in relation to a case before the court..

“[We are] aggrieved by the attempt of [Kelni GVG] to use the opportunity of the pandemic and the EI to obtain data which is not required by the EI and has no relevance to the stated purpose of the law i.e. Covid 19 contact tracing”, MTN’s affidavit says.

On April 6,  2020, Mr Francis Kwarteng Arthur, a private legal practitioner, went to the High Court to challenge the President’s order contained in Executive Instrument (EI) Number 63 and the manner in which the order was being implemented.

The EI 63 orders all telecommunication networks and service providers to hand over the personal information of all customers and subscribers to the President.

According to the EI, “there is an urgent need to establish an emergency communication system to trace all contacts of persons suspected of or actually affected by public health emergency and identify the places visited by persons suspected of or actually affected by a public emergency.”

The personal information to be collected includes the raw subscriber mobile money transfer data and mobile money merchant codes and addresses. Subscriber cell reference data and other call particulars will also be collected.

However, in a written submission filed at the Court  presided over by Justice Stephen Oppong, the petitioner’s lawyers argued that “a measure which seeks to suspend the privacy rights of over 10 million persons … all in the hope that some few hundreds may be traced, does not only amount to using a sledgehammer to kill a mosquito, but also unashamedly disproportionate and, thus, unreasonable.”

The defendants in  the case are Vodafone Ghana, MTN Ghana, Kelni GVG, the National Communication Authority and the Attorney-General.

While Vodafone is yet to file a response, the Attorney-General insists that Mr  Arthur’s petition is “misconceived and without merit and ought to be dismissed.”

The presiding judge, His Lordship Justice Stephen Oppong, one of the newly-appointed Justices of the High Court, meanwhile,  has adjourned the case to  June 23, 2020 when he will give his ruling on a motion for an interlocutory injunctions to restrain the government from collecting the information pending the determination of the case.

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