Government seeks to Monitor Facebook and Skype

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Kenya has plans to make steps in the control of the internet. In a step seemingly borrowed from our bigger Chinese brothers, the country is looking to regulate Whatsapp and Skype messaging platforms, a radical move that could force internet based providers and telcos to share private customer data with the government.

Led by Dr. Wangusui, the CA is in search of a consultant to study and determine how the so-called over-the-top services (OTTS) operated by groups such as Facebook, which runs WhatsApp, and Skype owner Microsoft could be regulated.

The regulator is angling for some level of control of these products just like it has been doing with text messages and calls. “Given that providers of OTTS are likely to gather their subscribers’ data and may not be domiciled in Kenya,” the CA said in a statement dispatched to Newsrooms.

According to the CA, the study is meant to recommend guidelines on the implementation, from which CA would decide on the specific aspects it can implement as part of its regulatory mandate.

Under CA regulation, owners of services such as WhatsApp and Skype will have to abide by “security and confidentiality provisions” demanded by law. The laws could also center on how the services comply with requests from security agencies for release of data as it applies to operators like Safaricom when directed by the courts.

The move comes as other global regulators and the EU in particular rein in on American companies in the sector. Regulators in Europe argue that OTTS, which let users deliver calls and messages via the internet, should be regulated in a similar way to the services they have rapidly replaced, including text messaging and traditional voice calling.

Big telecoms groups have for years complained that the likes of Google, Microsoft and now Facebook benefit from ‘light-touch’ regulation. The increased use of messaging apps in Kenya has been blamed on for the drop in the number of text messages sent per month per subscriber. In fact, the latest CA data show that subscribers message numbers dropped consecutively in the last 4 quarters.

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Melissa Daniels
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