Businessman calls out SABC in court for alleged TV licence data leak

Businessman Thabo Twala has stated in court papers that an ex-girlfriend, who says her child is his, allegedly found his address on an unlawfully obtained SABC TV Licence, reports City Press.

Twala is reportedly embroiled in a child maintenance and paternity dispute with the ex-girlfriend.

“Despite being fully aware of the paternity dispute, she is insisting that I pay maintenance in respect to the child and has approached the maintenance court in this regard,” Twala’s court papers reportedly stated.

He filed papers in the Johannesburg High Court after she sent him an email with his TV Licence invoice attached, showing his home address.

In his application, Twala cited the SABC and Information Regulator as respondents and demanded that his ex-girlfriend pay R500,000 for violating his rights to personal information.

The TV Licence was purportedly overdue, and the invoice handed to his ex-girlfriend.

However, Twala said he was surprised to see the invoice because all his outstanding TV Licence fees were fully paid.

SABC corporate affairs and marketing acting head Mmoni Seapolelo said they had seen the court summons.

The SABC declined to comment further as the matter was before the court.

In July 2022, MyBroadband reported that the SABC TV Licence web portal had a security vulnerability that allowed anyone to access people’s accounts without knowing their passwords.

A flaw in the SABC’s online payments system allowed someone to see any TV Licence holder’s outstanding bills, download an account statement, and view and change any address details on file.

The SABC only took down the vulnerable part of its website more than a week after MyBroadband reported the issue to the public broadcaster.

It only came back online five months later.

That was not the first time security problems have been reported with the SABC’s TV Licence portal either.

In 2016, an observant MyBroadband reader noticed that the SABC’s payment gateway provider used an outdated encryption algorithm to secure sensitive credit card information.

At the end of 2020, the broadcaster warned about an ongoing “hack” of its TV Licence web portal and advised customers not to leave their details on the website until it was resolved.

The “hack” appeared to be a basic website defacement, and the SABC announced a day later that it had been resolved.

South Africa’s struggling state-owned broadcaster has battled to convince the public to pay their TV Licences in recent years.

At the end of March 2019, 69% of TV Licence fees billed had not been paid — a slight improvement from the 72% evasion rate in 2018.

However, by 2020 the SABC’s TV Licence evasion rate surged to over 80%. In 2023, it had climbed to 87%.

Now read: This is the plan for TV Licences in South Africa

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Businessman calls out SABC in court for alleged TV licence data leak