Uganda’s facial recognition technology threatens Privacy

The Unwanted Witness Uganda is concerned that the new unregulated facial recognition technology in Uganda is not only violating privacy but may also have a chilling effect on fundamental right to association.

This unlawful surveillance technology potentially allows the identification of each single individual by face, which may further lead to criminalization of dissent and peaceful assembly in Uganda.

On October 9 2018, President Museveni commissioned Uganda’s first ever CCTV surveillance center at Natete police station, a Kampala suburb. The surveillance technology has the capacity to recognize individual faces and read vehicle number plates in distance of over 10kms.

“It is worrying that government can use surveillance technologies with the potential to affect the enjoyment of the right to privacy before either conducting a privacy impact assessment or enacting a data protection law,” Dorothy Mukasa, the Chief Executive Officer, the Unwanted Witness-Uganda, said.

She accused government of ignoring the process of expeditious passage of the Privacy and Data Protection Bill, 2015, which would otherwise hold agencies accountable of their actions.  

Privacy is a qualified fundamental human right guaranteed under Article 27 (2) of the 1995 Uganda Constitution. It stipulates, “no person shall be subjected to interference with the privacy of that person’s home, correspondence, communication or other property.

State and non-state actors have in the recent years conducted blanket collection and retention of personal data through SIM Card and National Identity card registration system without any data safeguards.

On July 2, 2018 security operatives working with the Internal Security Organization (ISO) raided MTN Uganda’s Data Center, compromising millions of subscribers’ personal data.

Unwanted Witness therefore recommends that; Parliament should urgently pass the much awaited Privacy and Data Protection Bill, 2015 into law to protect the citizens’ personal data and privacy.