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MPs urged to separate issues dealing with cybercrime

The Right2Know campaign and others are worried about provisions that could give the state backdoor access to private networks or broad surveillance powers.

Cybercrime. Picture: EWN

CAPE TOWN - Lawmakers dealing with legislation to fight cybercrime and bolster cybersecurity have been advised, during public hearings, to separate the issues instead of combining them into one problematic Bill.

The Right2Know campaign and others are worried about provisions that could give the state backdoor access to private networks or broad surveillance powers.

Chapter 11 of the Bill allows the State Security Minister the power to declare a device or network to be "critical information infrastructure".

On the second day of the hearings in Parliament, attorney and consultant Mark Heyink told lawmakers that it would be wise to split the Bill so that issues such as identity theft and cyber fraud could be dealt with urgently.

Many agree that South Africa needs to tighten laws to combat crimes involving computers or networks.

But Heyink says that the problem with the cybersecurity provisions is that they allow State Security to tell private companies what to do with data on their networks.

"I don't think that at this stage the Security Agency can really dictate to the private sector in that regard."

The Open Democracy Advice Centre’s Alison Tilley agrees that it makes sense to separate the issues.

"Because it focuses so much on the State Security Agency when that probably isn't the appropriate lead agency."

Those who made submissions are hoping that their input will be used to knock the Bill into shape before it’s passed by the National Assembly.

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