The High Court has ordered the National Communications Authority (NCA) to stop collecting personal information of mobile phone subscribers.
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 Akufo-Addo’s Executive Instrument on the Electronic Communications law.
This order, contained in Executive Instrument 63, as argued by the Attorney-General, was to enable the President 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 for the purposes of the Executive Instrument.
Justice Rebecca Sittie, however, held that the President’s directive violates people’s right to privacy.
The court also ordered Vodafone, the NCA and Kelni GVG to pay damages of GH¢20,000 each to the private legal practitioner.
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 was also sought a perpetual injunction to restrain the government, Kelni GVG and the NCA “from using the Executive Instrument to procure the applicants’ personal information from” Vodafone Ghana, his network provider.