Collection of personally identifiable data threatens National security and human rights: Warns Unwanted Witness

Kampala, 28th/07/2020; Unwanted Witness Uganda is deeply concerned about the likely harmful effects of the presidential directive to arbitrary collect citizen’s personal identifiable data by all Boda Boda riders and salon operators as contract tracing method to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the country.

Obtaining access to massive personal identifiable data including name, address, National Identification Number (NIN) and mobile phone numbers in the guise of tracking Covid-19 victims, is not only privacy pervasive but also may disproportionately harm national security. Boda Boda riders have in the past been involved in aiding criminality including, murders, kidnaps and robberies around the country, therefore entrusting them personal records jeopardizes personal safety and national security.

“We urge the government to skillfully show leadership in tackling the pandemic in a way that ensures that massive collection of personal data for tracking and monitoring individuals is carried out strictly in line with human rights,” said Dorothy Mukasa, the Chief Executive Officer, Unwanted Witness Uganda.

She called upon the government to stick to the enforcement of measures that are consistent with human rights standards and the rule of law. 

President Yoweri Museveni in his Tuesday 21st July 2021 address to the country relaxed further some of the restrictions imposed on the country in March this year as part of efforts to combat the deadly coronavirus pandemic, issued a presidential directive to Boda Boda riders who had been barred from carrying passengers to resume business starting July 27, 2021, but with stringent conditions such as registering every passenger and this includes taking down their mobile phone numbers and their destinations.

While Uganda and the rest of the world are faced with extraordinary times, human rights laws still apply. Indeed, the human rights framework is designed to ensure that different rights can be carefully balanced to protect individuals and wider societies. The government cannot simply disregard rights such as privacy in the name of tackling a public health crisis. On the contrary, protecting human rights also promotes public health. In all pandemics especially where casual person to person transmission occurs there is a need to ensure that the response is firmly grounded in human rights, to avoid threats to privacy.

The right to privacy is guaranteed under Article 27 of the 1995 Uganda constitution, and it stipulates that “No person shall be subjected to interference with the privacy of that person’s home, correspondence, communication or other property.”

However, human rights law demands that any interference must be lawful, necessary and proportionate.

Unwanted Witness, therefore, implores the government of Uganda to take every effort to protect people’s data including ensuring sufficient security of any personal data collected by the Boda Boda riders.

About Unwanted Witness

The Unwanted Witness is a civil society organization (CSO) that was established to respond to the gap in effective communication using various online expression platforms.