Phone users demand for Data Protection law.

By Solomon Lubambula

Your may recall that a few years ago one of the presidential candidates during the 2011 general elections, probably called  your phone or even other people trying to canvass for votes. You could have received unsolicited for messages, these two scenarios have kept many wondering how their phone contacts are accessed by these callers and companies doing business.

The answer is simple, it’s a clear misuse of phone users’ data and information. As Uganda marked this year’s World’s Consumers’ Rights Day, it emerged that the country needs enabling laws on Data Protection and observance of the right to privacy.

The day commemorated on the 15th of March was under the theme Fix our phones.

 The Authorities could have triumphed over the protracted legal battles challenging the phone SIM-Card registration without an enabling law, testimonies from the public during this year’s activities to mark the day highlighted loopholes in the country’s legal framework exposing consumers to human rights violations.

Article 27(2) of the constitution states that no person shall be subjected to interference with the privacy of the person’s home, correspondence, communication or other property.

This right to privacy also accrues to consumers of Telecom services as recognized by Uganda Communication Commission. But the constitutional provision is time and again violated according to the concerns of the phone users aired out this week.

According to the Uganda Communication Commission, telecom Companies are obliged to maintain confidentiality of the content of all communication whether Data or information.

Today people’s data is shared with third parties for instance on a number of occasions telephone call print out have been tendered in courts of law as evidence from both government and private individuals. Such evidence is received without questioning the processes under which such information was acquired.

 The Chief Executive Officer the Unwanted Witness Jeff Wokulira Ssebagala says that this is a critical moment for the protection of consumers` rights to privacy in Uganda.

 “We call upon all telecommunication companies and service providers including content providers to respect and protect the consumers’ right to privacy and to take measures to put an end to violations of other consumers’ rights especially misusing consumers’ personal data.” Ssebagala urged.

Ssebaggala further notes that Consumers of telecommunication services in Uganda are currently facing a number of challenges including but not limited to poor quality of services, abuse of consumers` rights especially the right to privacy and protection of personal data or information.

Because Telecom companies have failed to guarantee the respect and protection of the right to privacy policies by passing on consumers’ information to third parties, consumers protection groups therefore want government to speed up enactment of a privacy and data protection law.

Ssebagala also says that parliament should pass the consumer protection regulations developed by the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) in order to ensure that people’s rights like free speech, freedom of expression and the right to privacy are observed.

The shadow minister for ICT Andrew Allen is optimistic that the parliamentary committee on ICT in collaboration with the ICT ministry to ensure that Data protection law comes into force.

However Allen urged Uganda Communication Commission to take its regulatory role seriously and prohibit telecom companies from misusing phone users’ data that was capture during SIM card registration exercise.


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