The High Court has ordered the National Communications Authority (NCA) to stop collecting the personal mobile money data and outbound subscriber data of customers from the telecoms operators.
Per the orders of the court, the government has 14 days to delete all such data already gathered, and report same to the Court’s Registrar.
A private legal practitioner, Francis Kwarteng Arthur, took the National Communications Authority (NCA), Vodafone Ghana, MTN Ghana and Kelni GVG to court in 2020 over President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s Executive Instrument 63, which gives him power to collect the details of mobile phone subscribers, including their unhashed mobile money data.
The Attorney-General argued that the president issued the Executive Instrument 63 to enable government collect the said data to conduct contact tracing as part of the efforts at fighting COVID-19.
The personal information was to be collected by the telecommunication companies and lodged with a private company, Kelni GVG to hold on behalf of the President.
But Justice Rebecca Sittie held that, whereas the President was within his rights to demand for personal details of mobile phone subscribers in the country, there is no justification for demanding unhashed mobile money details of individuals.
She also pointed out that outbound subscriber data was not necessary for Covid-19 contact tracing so the president also violated the rights of the applicant with regards to that.
In effect, the court ordered the NCA and Kelni GVG to pay damages of GH¢20,000 each to the applicant, and also ordered Vodafone and MTN to pay GHC10,000 in that same respect.
The emergency legislation signed by President Nana Akufo-Addo on March 24, 2020, sought to provide legal backing to a series of steps undertaken by the government to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In line with the Electronic Communications Act, 2008 (Act 775), the law specifically directed network operators to make available data including all called numbers, mobile money merchant codes and uncashed subscriber mobile money transfer data.
According to the Executive Instrument, the network operators were to cooperate with the National Communications Authority Common Platform to provide information to state agencies in the case of an emergency.
Unhappy with the law, Mr. Arthur went to court to seek an order to quash the President’s directive because to him, the order “violated, are violating or are likely to violate” his “fundamental rights and freedoms”.
He also sought a perpetual injunction to restrain the government, Kelni GVG and the NCA from using the Executive Instrument 63 to procure personal information of Ghanaians from telecom operators, but that was dismissed those reliefs.