Vodacom has allegedly been providing its subscribers’ numbers to third parties, The Times reported on Thursday.
The cellular company reportedly confirmed on Wednesday that some of its 32,5m local and 27m international subscribers’ personal details were supplied to other businesses.
The company launched an “urgent” internal investigation into the matter, according to the newspaper.
Vodacom spokesman Richard Boorman told The Times the company used “header enrichment” for select third-party services, but that this was not its default operation.
“We use it for a select number of Vodacom and trusted third-party services such as charge-to-bill [a built-in payment mechanism],” he was quoted as saying.
“We reassure our customers that their information is not being routinely shared with all websites.”
In a statement sent to TechCentral on Thursday, Boorman said Vodacom does not sell customer information to third parties. “At no point do we disclose personal information such as customer names, billing information or anything else along these lines,” he said.
“We do offer services which allow customers to charge things to their phone bill, such as apps from app stores. This is especially important for customers who do not have access to a credit card and is a way to ensure that all customers can benefit from full connectivity,” Boorman said in the statement. “We also support services where customers opt into a service, such as our look-for-me emergency location service.”
Only in those specific instances does Vodacom provide the subscriber’s cellphone number.
“We recently ran a software update to increase the security of this process by implementing an even more secure protocol. A bug has been identified in this update which means that in some cases the cellphone number and IMEI number were sporadically visible to other websites. As soon as we were made aware, we reversed the software update and are now developing a fix.”
An IEMI is a number that is unique to a device and can be used to identify it. — Sapa, with TechCentral