About 70‚000 South African phones are being spied on each year by law enforcement agencies‚ exploiting a loophole in the country's surveillance policies.
This is according to civil rights organisation Right2Know Campaign‚ which collected statistics from the country's top four network providers.
"These numbers show that‚ at a minimum‚ law enforcement agencies are spying on the communications of at least 70‚000 phone numbers each year‚" said R2K in a statement on Wednesday.
Three months ago‚ R2K asked MTN‚ Telkom‚ Vodacom and Cell C how many warrants they had received in terms of section 205 of the Criminal Procedures Act in 2015‚ 2016 and 2017.
R2K's request to the network providers was to understand how a legal loophole has allowed surveillance operations to take place using the Criminal Procedures Act‚ rather than the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (RICA).
"RICA is meant to be South Africa's primary surveillance law. It requires law enforcement and intelligence agencies to get the permission of a special judge‚ appointed by the president‚ to intercept a person's communications. In order to apply for this warrant‚ they need to provide strong reasons because such interceptions threaten peoples' right to privacy so much.