Press Statement on MTN Uganda sharing Subscribers’ data with ruling NRM party for Campaigns

MTN Uganda Must explain circumstances under which it shared personal data of its 10 million subscribers to ruling party the National Resistance Movement, says the Unwanted Witness

Kampala 18th December 2015; The Unwanted Witness (UW) is dismayed with the way the MTN Uganda has provided a sweeping access to personal data of its 10 million subscribers to the ruling party, National Resistance Movement (NRM) to campaign for president Museveni on people’s mobile phones ahead of 2016 general elections.

Ugandans are expected to go to polls on February 18th 2016 to elect a new president. President Museveni, the NRM sole candidate is standing for a fifth term competing with other six candidates including his former Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Amama Mbabazi, standing as an independent and his former personal doctor retired col. Dr. Kiiza Besigye

MTN Uganda shared personal data of its subscribers with Tuongee Communication Center headed by President Museveni son-in-law Odrek Rwabwogo. The powers of the center are still unknown but it employs intelligence personnel and IT undergraduates.

According to information obtained by the Unwanted Witness Uganda, Tuongee Communication Center is using a short coded number “0207” to call and as soon as subscribers pick, they (center) play a recorded voice of president Museveni which runs for about a minute and it goes; “…Hello, greeting to the people of Uganda, this is the Old man in the hat …”

Some of the MTN Uganda subscribers who spoke to the Unwanted Witness questioned the level of confidentiality and responsibility to protect their personal data while others questioned when did MTN Uganda become partisan, “…I do not want to be bothered. I have no business with the National Resistance Movement. I am neither a member nor a cadre…” a seemingly irritated MTN customer commented.

The Unwanted Witness feels that the actions of MTN Uganda undermine its responsibility as a private company to protect fundamental freedoms of its customers including their right to privacy which is a gateway to freedom of expression, opinion and thought.

Well as we understand the political interference telecom companies face from government, we warn that MTN Uganda succumbing to illegitimate pressure and share your customers’ personal data to anyone including political parties will have a dire consequence to your business.

“We condemn the actions of MTN Uganda in the strongest terms possible as our concerns remain high as who is responsible to protect citizens’ personal data/information. It’s clear that telecom companies who should be at a forefront to safe guard subscribers’ data are conniving with politicians to misuse data collected during the mandatory SIM Card registration” Said, Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala, the Chief Executive Officer, The Unwanted Witness.

He added that all along activists have been banking on telecom companies’ to use internal safe guards to protect their subscribers’ personal data as we push government to enact a law on Privacy and Data Protection but unfortunately these safe guards are either weak or do not exist.

The Unwanted Witness fears for the lives of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and activists whose voices are contrary to that of government during this electoral process as their details might be used against them

We call upon everyone who subscribes to local telecoms services to be cautious and limit how much you share while using your mobile phones especially with strangers.

The Unwanted Witness Uganda therefore demands the following;

  1. We call upon MTN Uganda to come out and explain circumstances under which they shared subscribers’ data to politicians.
  2. We demand for an apology from MTN Uganda to all Ugandans especially its subscribers for sharing their personal data/information without their consent.
  3. UCC should exercise its powers in regards to protecting citizens’ personal information/ data in the hands of telecom companies, by strictly enforcing its duties enshrined under the Uganda Communications Act 2013
  4. UCC should investigate the circumstances under which telecom companies especially MTN Uganda shared subscribers’ data.
  5. Parliament should urgently pass the long overdue privacy and data protection Bill 2014 into law;

For More Information contact;

The Unwanted Witness Uganda
Plot 41, Gaddafi Road
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala.
Tel: +256 414 697 635, +256-752-810-079