Kenya approves spyware software installation on all mobile phones

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Kenya Spyware
Kenya Spyware

Then Kenya government wants to curb the sale and distribution of fake phones so it has approved a spyware software to be installed on every mobile device in the country.

Last week, the Supreme Court of Kenya approved the installation and use of the Device Management System (DMS) on all mobile phones to help curb counterfeit devices.

The use of DMS was first proposed in 2017 by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) which, at the time, was already testing the DMS across the country. DMS would reportedly use mobile networks to remotely access devices’ International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number and ban those that were counterfeit.

The proposal was blocked in 2018 but the Court of Appeal, in 2020, overturned the block and allowed the CAK to continue developing DMS. By October 2022, CAK revived the application for roll out to much public outcry.

Mobile network providers, especially Safaricom, have, however, pushed against the use of the DMS, stating that the software would allow Kenya’s communications regulator to access customer data including calls and messages.

In October, the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) also petitioned the Supreme Court to stop the implementation of the DMS for the same privacy concerns. The Supreme Court dismissed all appeals citing that the CAK via its regulatory act had the power to monitor compliance with its laws.

This approval will see to the creation of an Equipment Identification Register (EIR), which will detect all devices, isolate the illegal ones, and deny fake devices service.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has a similar yet more robust registry, the Régistre des Appareils Mobiles (RAM), which registers devices including phones, tablets and laptops, by matching the 15-digit IMEIs to buyers. With RAM, users can get stolen phones blocked and the DRC can monitor counterfeit devices registered within its territory.

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