Telephone scanners target of law review

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 February, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 February, 1994, 12:00am

EAVESDROPPERS with mobile telephone scanners might be forced to register their equipment in the same way as owners of private firearms, authorities warned yesterday.

The Secretary for Economic Services, Gordon Siu Kwing-chue, said plans to tighten laws against telephone eavesdropping would tackle the prevalence of scanning equipment.

''We'll have to look at banning sales or registration at point of sale,'' he said.

''This has yet to be worked out. There could be a process of voluntary registration.

''We want to tighten and sharpen the laws so that it [the monitoring of telephone conversations] is an illegal act.'' A Government review of telecommunications laws is looking at ways to outlaw eavesdropping and control the use of radio scanners.

Scanning devices, often no bigger than a transistor radio, are available from electronics shops throughout the territory.

Some cost less than $1,000 and are reportedly used by criminals monitoring police movements and businessmen seeking inside information on rivals.

Law Reform Commission privacy sub-committee secretary Mark Berthold said legislators and police faced difficulties in clamping down on the scanners.

''It would definitely create a problem for a licensing regime,'' he said.

''If the approach was to require anybody with that property to have a licence, in the same way you need a licence to possess a firearm, it would create a very difficult regulatory problem. The extent to which these things are available has to be recognised.

''The police are concerned because [eavesdropping] is affecting the efficiency of their activities.''