Telco giant, MTN, is threatening civil and criminal action against Wireless Application Service Providers (WASPs) and service providers who put their customers’ privacy at risk.
This comes after revelations that Vodacom and MTN’s location-bases services are being abused to track unsuspecting South Africans. Most recently, this technology was used to track the movements of Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear and subsequently plan his assassination. Investigations into this crime by South African police revealed the abuse.
MTN has since shut down access to 9 WASPs that had contracts to offer location-based services.
These operators used MTN’s services to offer security tracking or alert services to their clients. Their contacts with MTN state that tracking should ONLY be undertaken with signed permission from the WASP’s customer.
MTN has asked all nine WASPs to prove whether all the people they tracked gave their express consent. The WASPs were not very forthcoming with this information leading to MTN cutting off their access to location-based services.
The telco said, “The required strict adherence to contractual requirements and individual permissions appears to have been ignored, resulting in the system being abused by the WASPs.”
A local news station, News24, reported that the location information of subscribers was sold to individuals and private investigators who would pay to track people without their knowledge.
“We are appalled by this abuse and will support any formal police investigation that will root out the perpetrators,” MTN said.
MTN has launched an investigation into the abuse of location-based services following the information supplied to it by the SAPS.
Jacqui O’Sullivan, MTN SA’s executive for corporate affairs, said the investigation was recently concluded with concerning results.
“There is sufficient cause for the suspension of all current location-based service providers pending a full forensic investigation that will determine the scope and scale of any abuse,” she said.
O’Sullivan said MTN will not tolerate WASPs or any service provider putting the privacy of their customers at risk.
“Should abuse be identified, through our end-to-end forensic investigation, MTN will not hesitate to pursue both criminal and civil charges against the perpetrators of the abuse,” O’Sullivan said.