Telecom companies, regulators discuss wiretapping issue

The first in what is likely to be a series of private meetings concerning the expansion and enhancement of communications interception facilities between Cayman Islands telecommunications companies and their government regulator was held Wednesday.

Representatives of every licensed telecommunications company in the islands were invited to a meeting last week – postponed until Oct. 30 – with managers of the Information and Communications Technology Authority to discuss how the government intended to proceed with changes to wiretapping ruled. .

“Everyone expected eventually showed up,” said ICTA Managing Director David Archbold. “It was merely an initial briefing and brainstorming session concerning implementation timescales.”

According to a memo obtained by the Caymanian Compass last month, the Cayman Islands government is seeking to require local telecommunications companies to provide “legal interception facilities” to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.

The police service purchased surveillance equipment for the purpose of intercepting communications this year, but needs to directly access the service providers’ telephony networks to ensure the equipment functions properly, according to government sources familiar with the issue.

The equipment purchase was included in a supplementary expense for the 2012/13 government budget as an unspecified $900,000 for “law enforcement equipment services.” An additional $340,000 expense under the same general heading was included in the 2013/14 spending plan.

According to the Oct. 15 memo from Mr. Archbold to various telecommunication companies on island: “Government has instructed the authority to provide drafting instructions for a new set of regulations under the ICTA Law which will mandate the provision by licensees [referring to the telecommunications companies] of legal interception facilities to the RCIPS.

“Although initially these regulations will apply only to mobile telephony service providers, it is anticipated that in the near to medium term these obligations will be extended to all telephony service providers. The authority has already commenced consultations with LIME and Digicel, but would now like to extend these discussions to include all other telephony licenses.”

Regulations attached to the ICTA Law, approved in August 2011 by Cayman Islands Cabinet members, allow “any person employed by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service to intercept a message in relation to a matter or person” for the purposes of gathering intelligence.

The interception of the message – which can include any form of communication such as telephones, post, email, text messages and the like – must be authorized by a warrant issued directly by Cayman’s governor. The warrant would have to be addressed to the RCIPS commissioner, who can then authorize a police service employee to execute it.

There is no judicial review of the warrants prior to their issuance. However, any information uncovered via the use of such telephone tapping or email snooping methods would not be available for use in court.