Kampala, 4th/04/2017; Unwanted Witness Uganda is greatly concerned by the recent move made by the government through its agencies to give telecom companies open access to citizens’ national ID database during subscribers’ SIM card verification process.

Mandatory SIM Card registration commenced in 2013 with over 15 million subscribers registered countrywide. This massive subscribers’ data has since been in possession of private telecom companies and has been either abused or violated by both state and non-state actors.

In a meeting with telecom companies’ representatives held on 31st March 2017, the telecom regulator Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), security and National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) agreed to share the national ID database with private telecom companies to ascertain true SIM Card ownership.

 However Unwanted Witness is opposed to the move, because sharing citizens’ database with private entities without a privacy and data protection law, closes further the opportunity for one to anonymously communicate. Telecom companies have on several occasions shared people’s content through back doors, including previous general elections where telecom companies shared people’s data without their consent with political parties to canvass for votes.

Article 27 (2) of the 1995 constitution of the Republic of Uganda stipulates that, “no person shall be subjected to interference with the privacy of that person’s home, correspondence, communication or other property.

“We fear for the safety of groups like human rights defenders particularly journalists whose work majorly survives on communication and therefore this move is killing information sources and also facilitates government’s clap down on individuals with divert views,” said Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala, the Chief Executive Officer, the Unwanted Witness-Uganda.

He added that it’s the responsibility of government to uphold and protect freedoms including the right to anonymity, encryption and privacy, which is a gateway to enjoyment of all other freedoms.

We call upon government to desist from surrendering citizens’ personal data to private business entities to which they have no control and request that all information in custody of private telecom companies is handed over to government with immediate effect.

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