By Solomon Lubambula
Mobile phone subscribers want government to bar telecom companies from misusing personal information gathered during mandatory Sim card registration exercise. Subscribers point out unsolicited text messages and the rampant conmen via mobile money services as evidence that personal information is being misused.
Joining the rest of the world to commemorate February 11th the day we fight back against mass surveillance and intrusion to privacy, activists added their voices saying that recent actions by telecommunication companies, state security agencies, point to an orchestrated move grossly abusing the said right under the watchful eye of the Uganda communication commission, a telecom regulator.
The right to privacy is a basic fundamental right and freedom guaranteed by the 1995 Uganda constitution under Article 27 as inherent.
However the Unwanted Witness Uganda a Non-Governmental Organization dealing in Internet freedoms noted that the said Telecom companies have continuously misused consumers’ information gathered in their custody by passing it over to third parties.
Notwithstanding the existence of policy directives that guarantee consumers rights as stipulated by Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) this abusive action has persisted especially due to the absence of a privacy and data protection law in Uganda.
After its online petition against misuse of consumer’s information by Telecommunication companies, the Unwanted Witness has received overwhelming support from those who have fallen victims of this negligent act.
By press time the unwanted witness website (www.unwantedwitness.or.ug) was indicated that a total of 229, 575 people with different reasons had signed the online petition.
The Head of Program Unwanted Witness Godfrey Twesigye said the testimonies of both internet and mobile phone users point to the existence of mass surveillance on citizens is a breach of fundamental right to privacy.
Twesigye adds that this abuse has been facilitated by the absence of a privacy and data protection law in Uganda.
He recommended that the Uganda communication commission should put in place stringent measures for telecommunication companies to strictly adhere and conform to the implementation of the consumer’s rights.
Twesigye stressed that the Uganda communication commission should enforce its regulatory function over telecommunication companies to prohibit them from passing on subscribers’ data/information to business entities and politicians.
He says that because mass surveillance is an infringement of personal privacy, Security agencies should therefore act with restraint from violating the citizens’ right to privacy.
Telecommunication companies are now challenged to strictly implement their internal privacy and data protection policies including controlling and regulating whoever has access to it, as the country awaits for a data protection law that is being drafted by government.