Free Press Activist Neils ten Oever has said data retention regulations like SIM Registration and other pose a threat to the privacy and anonymity of whistle blowers, and sources for journalists so they must be abolished.

Neils ten Oever is the Programme Coordinator of Free Press Unlimited and he was speaking at the just end 16th Highway Africa Conference at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa.

He noted that ICT specialists have been providing companies and governments with software and hardware to do data retention and that helps to trace sources of journalists and of whistle blowers, adding that those systems needed to be abolished because they threaten free press and free speech.

Ghana has a SIM Registration Law which requires that all mobile phone users register their SIM cards before they can make calls.

The data generated from the process is kept with the service providers, and with government, and that helps identify persons who use their mobile phones to commit crimes.

The Minister of Communication, Haruna Iddrisu recently announced that the police reported to him that since SIM Registration started, they have been able to bust lots of criminals who use their mobile phones to commit crimes like death threats, scams and even phone theft.

SIM registration is also touted as a means by which SIM Box fraudsters could be identified and busted so that the millions of dollars poor countries like Ghana lose to those criminals could be stopped.

But Neil ten Oever posited that even though data retention regulation may have some benefits, they also scraps privacy and anonymity of journalists’ sources, activists, and of whistle blowers who expose corruption.

He gave the example of Sudan and Russia, where an ordinary citizen filmed electoral officials with a mobile phone stuffing ballot boxes in an attempt to rig elections, and also of horrifying pictures from Syria to expose the officials involved.

“Such persons run the risked of being targeted and killed or harmed under a regime where their data has been retained by government agencies,” he said.