MTN threatens legal action against location-based service providers

MTN is threatening civil and criminal action against WASPs or any other service provider which puts the privacy of its customers at risk.

This followed revelations of widespread abuse of location-based services, provided by Vodacom and MTN to track South Africans without their knowledge or consent.

This location-based data was used to track the movements of Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear and plan his assassination.

As part of the murder investigation, the South African Police Service (SAPS) brought the abuse of location-based services to the attention of the mobile operators.

MTN responded by shutting down access to the nine wireless application service providers (WASPs) that have contracts with it to offer location-based services (LBS).

These LBS operators typically used MTN’s services to offer security tracking or alert services to their customers.

The contract with MTN stipulates that tracking may only be undertaken where signed permission has been received from the WASP’s customer.

After MTN was alerted to the abuse, it asked the nine contracted WASPs to show that the people they tracked gave them permission.

This information was not forthcoming, and MTN, therefore, cut all access to the location-based services for these WASPs.

“The required strict adherence to contractual requirements and individual permissions appears to have been ignored, resulting in the system being abused by the WASPs,” MTN said.

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 investigation into abuse

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, told MyBroadband 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.

Now read: Vodacom and MTN data linked to assassination scandal

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MTN threatens legal action against location-based service providers