Columnists

Phone tapping a bad way to spend taxes

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jenny

Summary

  • In India, the law spells out three years of imprisonment under Section 26 (b) of the Indian Telegraph Act for unauthorised phone tapping.
  • The aggrieved person can file an FIR and also move to the Human Rights Commission as unauthorised tapping is violation of right to privacy.
  • But, in Kenya, we don’t have a right to privacy.

It appears my phone is being tapped, and, truly, no-one is more surprised about that than I am. As a middle-aged professional writer, I never expected to make it onto anyone’s surveillance list, but whoever decided I was that interesting: hats off to you, Sir. I am honoured.

Unfortunately, it’s a judgment call, in terms of spending of funds, that I would definitely question, as I happen to know just how dull my phone use is.

Indeed, my sympathy goes out to the poor soul who must listen to me talking for hours to my eldest son about Brexit,

Trump, and existentialism, his business plans, and the state of his social life. And to my youngest son, too, about the world of Generation Z, and the girl he is in love with.

Fortunately, since mid-December, both my sons have been with me, so less phone time. They still get my cousin, now working emergency night-shifts in a British hospital, though.

So how did I find out? Well, by early December, my UK phone had begun behaving very oddly, often getting through to silence when I dialled my son’s number, while he swore he had never received a call — to the extent of us sharing photos of phone logs, and it was true, no call his end. That rerouting is a common feature of taps, I have since found out.

But it wasn’t until one day, our call cut — another feature, I now know, as their tape runs out —and when I got back to him, he picked up again on what we had been talking about, and then again, and again, until I started to beg him to stop, because he had said that same thing four times.

There was no-one there. It was a tape of the earlier conversation with my son, playing on a loop.

Honestly, that was disturbing. And, by then, he was also texting me on WhatsApp to ask why I had’t called back — and I’m saying, but I am on the phone with you, even as I realised I was not.

That playback finally bothered me enough to search online. No real surprises.

SECURITY CONSULTANT

It means your phone conversations are being recorded, I read, before contacting a phone security consultant on Quora, who told me all the features of a lower-grade tapping system, and I had them all.

Except I hit a new one this month, the day I called my younger son and was pushing him to speak when I couldn’t hear him, until someone did — with a Kenyan accent. Now that really got my wondering. My Kenyan number was tapped once before, by, it turned out, a private security consultant.

But how do I get Kenyan listeners on my UK number, with a UK phone company: I guess it’s time to go back to the security consultant and ask. Maybe an app that was planted, or is this the DMS mobile monitoring system that our Supreme Court ruled wasn’t an invasion of privacy in mass monitoring phone calls?

If it is, the DMS, guys, it’s useless: this thing reroutes me to dead lines constantly, plays back recorded loops, and occasionally gives me Kenyan male strangers! You need an engineering overhaul.

SUPREME COURT

Although, so far as privacy, when the Supreme Court doesn’t uphold it, we have none.

In India, the law spells out three years of imprisonment under Section 26 (b) of the Indian Telegraph Act for unauthorised phone tapping.

The aggrieved person can file an FIR and also move to the Human Rights Commission as unauthorised tapping is violation of right to privacy.

But, in Kenya, we don’t have a right to privacy.

Yet the thing that makes me genuinely laugh: when I share that fish recipe tonight with my best friend from school days, your taxes will be paying to listen to it! Because that’s where taxpayer money goes when no one is accountable and the courts wash their hands of rights.

And that’s better than paying for children’s anti-malaria nets? Ok. Whatever. Maybe that’s why I am getting bugged, because that surely seems senseless to me.