Government tapping phone calls illegally, say rights bodies

By EPHRAIM KASOZI JULIET KIGONGO Posted  Tuesday, December 3  2013 at  02:00

Kampala- The government has come under attack from human rights defenders for allegedly recruiting two foreign firms to secretly carry out surveillance on individuals’ private digital equipment such as computers and mobile telephones in a move they say infringes on citizens’ right to privacy.

The activists allege that the two firms are doing voice and data surveillance without permission from the telecommunication providers.

“We are aware that the surveillance companies operate without permission from the telecommunication providers but have access to do surveillance. This is dangerous because people cannot have quality conversations and yet the government is supposed to protect people’s rights to privacy,” said Mr Geoffrey Ssebaggala, the chief executive officer of the Unwanted Witness- Uganda (UW-U).

He was speaking at the closure of a training workshop for journalists and business operators on the risks involved while using internet in Kampala.

Mr Ssebaggala added: “Our preliminary inquiry shows that these companies send surveillance Malware to individual citizens’ computers as long as they have their Internet Protocol address to track peoples’ activities on computer and their telephones,” he said, revealing that UW-U in partnership with the Parliamentary Committee on ICT have started formulating a law to protect privacy.

However, the executive director of the Uganda Media Centre, Mr Ofwono Opondo, said he was not aware of the recruitment of the said companies but insisted that whatever is done by the government is within the law.

He explained that the move seeks to protect the public from terrorism and other criminal acts such as money laundering.

Ms Ashnah Kalemera, the CIPESA programmes associate, said the current laws do not provide an opportunity for Ugandans to attain full enjoyment of their rights to internet.