PROTECTING CONSUMER RIGHTS: KITUO CHA SHERIA SUES EQUITY BANK

 

Courtesy

Courtesy

Thin Sim Technology
Thin SIM technology entails overlaying the Equity Bank Sim card on a pre-existing one belonging to another firm and using it for phone services.

Equity Bank introduced the paper- thin SIM card to help its customers access the bank’s mobile money service without needing to use dual – SIM phones. The SIM cards consist of 0.1 millimeter thick film that can be layered on an active side of customers’ original SIM cards, without affecting the customers’ original service providers’ network reception. If called on an Equity line you can pick it and if they call your other network, you do the same. Basically, your phone becomes a dual sim card, even it has only one slot.

Why is Kituo suing Equity Bank?
There have been concerns that the Thin SIM card will compromise the security of other mobile subscribers.
Kituo is before court seeking an order to quash the decision of the Communication Authority of Kenya allowing for the rolling out the Thin SIM technology.

Kituo argues the Thin SIM Technology is vulnerable to interception or interruption of communication or data relating to the primary SIM (that of a mobile services provider) of the members of the public. The said Thin SIM technology entails overlaying a SIM card on an existing SIM card. There lies the risk of contamination of data or transmission of private information or account details in the existing SIM card by a third party who could not be party to a relationship between an existing SIM card user and a mobile banking services provider.

Without certainty of the security of customers’ private information and verification of mitigation measures, members of the public subject to Thin SIM Technology are vulnerable to risks resulting from third parties’ to among others: observing, recording and divulging PIN details; initiating, intercepting, manipulating and/or blocking communications including voice calls, SMS, USSD, SIP calls and web sessions and/or destroying SIM toolkit instructions; executing actions without the permission or knowledge of a mobile user; recording and disclosing mobile user’s location information; accessing a SIM card and changing configuration settings without a customer’s authority.

However all necessary security precautions that may be made, there is a danger of a malicious third party assessing a customer’s data using malware. The third party can potentially download a “Trojan” application to the overlay SIM and access a customer’s sensitive data.

Why does this matter interest Kituo?
Article 31 of the constitution of Kenya protects the right to the privacy of every person including the right not to have information relating to their family or private affairs unnecessarily required or revealed, or the privacy of their communications infringed. The decision to roll out the Thin Sim technology is in blatant disregard of the Kenya Information and Communication Act and Consumer Protection Regulations 2010.

Kituo has a constitutional right to institute court proceedings to claim a contravention or threatened contravention of the Constitution, including Article 31. Article 258 (2) (c) further allows Kituo to act in the interest of the public.

Whereas the providers of the SIM Technology cannot deny chances of vulnerability of the data of members of the public – through the intention to test the vulnerability of the technology in a one year trial period, it is prudent that the private information of the members of the public is safeguarded (including in the said trial period) against any malicious third party who may be interested in observing, collecting, altering and revealing such sensitive information.

Users of mobile phones and SIM cards constitute a class of the public whose welfare – regarding the security of their data and when compared to that of private individuals or institutions – must be protected and defended by the society. The society, through individuals or institutions acting on its behalf, has an enormous stake in the protection of the right to privacy. The society must protect information relating to its families or private affairs unnecessarily required or revealed, and the privacy of its communications from infringement or threatened infringement.

Progress of the Case: Thin Sim Blocked
On the 18th of December, 2014 the High Court temporarily blocked the roll out of the Thin Sim technology after Kituo claimed that primary SIMs of millions of mobile phone customers’ risks being compromised in an irreparable manner. The case continues to be heard.

Written by Jodom Mwebi.

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