How Secret WhatsApp, SMSs Will Cost Kenyans Ksh1M Fine

File image of a man using a phone
A photo of a man using a smartphone
Kenya Pics

Kenyans will face a Ksh1 million fine for refusing to disclose WhatsApp chats and SMSs which the government deems suspicious. 

The Statute Law Miscellaneous Amendment Bill 2020 in Parliament has proposed to compel citizens to avail any information on their communication platforms on demand.

“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 other person named in the order, the original or transcripts of all such data,” the proposed law states. 

A 2018 image of Kenyan youth perusing a phone.

The Bill is supposed to help the government unravel complex webs of terrorism, money laundering and cybercrime

Besides the mandatory disclosure of information, the proposal also seeks to update communication laws that were passed more than 50 years ago to suit the new trends and technology. 

The Bill proposes the change of the word telegrams to telecommunication to include text messages, WhatsApp and emails. 

This push comes after the courts stopped the government from installing spyware on local mobile communication channels, citing intrusion of privacy.

The Communications Authority of Kenya had proposed that the country’s leading mobile network providers install a data management system to help detect fake devices.

The firms opposed the plan, arguing that the purpose would have been to eavesdrop on calls, read messages and track financial transactions. 

The court barred CA from continuing with the project, noting that the work that the authority wanted to do could also be done by Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), the police, and KEBS.

The telcos also had a system of identifying unregistered sim cards and mobile phones. 

He noted that more than 1.89 million mobile phones had been successfully blocked with the help of the mobile phone services firms.

The Communications Authority of Kenya offices along Waiyaki Way, Nairobi.
The Communications Authority of Kenya offices along Waiyaki Way, Nairobi.
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