Lest we forget the legalities

May 2011 News

In the last issue we covered a few cool products from SpyCatcher. While the products we mentioned were all fantastic for having fun, we forgot to mention that there could be legal issues with covert surveillance in certain instances. For some it might be obvious that you cannot just go spy on anyone unless you work for a certain political party, but for others, perhaps not.

We were reminded of this fact in the following letter from Steve Whitehead of Eavesdropping Detection Solutions, a company that has been in Hi-Tech Security Solutions on a number of occasions. The moral of the story, be careful when using products like these and get legal advice if you plan to use the surveillance for anything.

Thanks to Steve for the reminder.

Letter to the editor

Dear Andrew,

I am writing about the article, ‘You are Big Brother’. It is always nice to know what is on the market and the wide range of devices described, again illustrate how easy it is to eavesdrop on conversations.

According to your article, SpyCatcher SA spoke to you about its range of surveillance products that the ordinary citizen “can access and easily use”. The company also sells the stock via its website.

I think your article should have pointed out that it is illegal for ordinary citizens to use any of the devices mentioned in the article to monitor conversations without someone’s permission. The penalties are also severe if found guilty.

According to Section 2 of the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-related Information Act No 70 of 2002 that came into effect on 22 January 2003, “no person may intentionally intercept or attempt to intercept, or authorise or procure any other person to intercept or attempt to intercept, at any place in the Republic, any communication in the course of its occurrence or transmission”.

There are several exceptions to the prohibition in section 2. You may intercept a conversation of which you are a party and there are a number of exceptions for government officials investigating crime. Workplace monitoring can also take place where crime is suspected, but again subject to a number of conditions. Any form of workplace monitoring should also be described in the employee contract and a company’s communication policy.

The act further says that any person who intentionally intercepts or attempts to intercept a communication, save for the exceptions, is guilty of an offence which carries a fine of R2 million or imprisonment of up to 10 years.

From an operational point these devices are very easy to identify and to locate during a professional TSCM sweep.


Steve Whitehead

Eavesdropping Detection Solutions

Andrew Seldon, editor


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