Telcos to Reveal Customer Data Under Proposed Law

  • File image of Parliament in session
    File image of Parliament in session
    Daily Nation
  • The government will be able to access Kenyans’ personal data if a proposed Bill is signed into law.

    The Bill tabled in the National Assembly on Tuesday, June 16 seeks to allow Telecommunication firms in Kenya to reveal customers’ data to the government.

    “Where it appears to the Cabinet Secretary that it is in the public interest to do so, the CS may by warrant under his hand, require any person who owns or controls any telecommunication apparatus used for sending or receipt of any data to or from any place outside Kenya, to produce to the Cabinet Secretary or any person named in the warrant, the original or transcripts of all such data and all other documents related to such data,” the proposed amendment states.

    This means the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Interior Security will be allowed to ask for customer data.

    According to the proposed amendments to the Official Secret Act, such data would be required if the CS is convinced it is in the public interest.

    Under the proposed law, any person who fails to comply with the request is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment of a term not exceeding one year.

    This, however, goes against the Data Protection Act of 2019 which was assented to by President Uhuru Kenyatta on November 8, 2019.

    Under the Data Protection Law, the data subjects have the right to be informed of the use to which their personal data is to be put, to access their personal data, to object to the processing of all or part of their personal data, to the correction of false or misleading data, and to deletion of false or misleading data about them.

    This means that the government may breach Data Protection Actby in order accessing one's personal information from said telecommunications companies. 

    Under the same Bill, the government is looking to amend the Evidence Act to allow for the use of electronic evidence such as pictures in criminal trials.

    A Kenyan Police Officer at a crime scene
    A Kenyan Police Officer at a crime scene

    However, according to Uk-based human rights watchdog Privacy International, Kenya’s security and counter-terrorism agencies pressure telecommunication companies to gain access to customer data and use it to commit gross human rights abuses.

    In a 2017 report, the agency said Kenya’s intelligence agencies have placed agents within telcommunication companies in order to circumvent the law and protocol for accessing citizens' personal data.  

    criminal abuse terrorism