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Activists welcome bill on personal data protection

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Activists welcome bill on personal data protection

ICT minister John Nasasira

ICT minister John Nasasira



After rigorous engagements with the authorities, the government has heeded the cries of the civil society and recently tabled the Data Protection and Privacy Bill 2016.

The Bill presented before Parliament by the state minister for finance David Bahati on behalf of the ICT Minister John Nasasira, was welcomed by activists that have been at the forefront of agitating for online privacy and personal data protection.

Welcoming the gesture by government, Unwanted Witness-Uganda, a civil society Organization that deals with digital and online rights noted that the enactment and subsequent implementation of the law is long overdue.

For about 20 years since the promulgation of the 1995 Constitution, there has been no law to enforce article 27 of the same constitution which prohibits interference with any person’s privacy, home, correspondence, communication or other property.

On several occasions people submit personal information when filling up forms before getting services at organizations like Banks, Travel Agencies, Hospitals among others but the existing laws don’t regulate or protect personal data like personal details collected by such organizations.

The Data Protection and Privacy Bill, 2016 that is now before Parliament for discussion and approval seeks to cover areas that deal with personal data, which are not covered in the Interception of Communication Act and the Registration of Person’s Act.

The draft law allows Ugandans to withhold their personal data, inquire the purpose for which it is being sought, and how long the data should be used.

Unwanted Witness-Uganda Executive Director Wokulira Ssebaggala has urged Parliament to conduct wide and thorough consultations to ensure that once passed into law, the law carries expressed views of citizens, protects citizens’ right to privacy which is a gateway to other freedoms including freedom of expression.

Ssebagala says once approved, the law will help reduce cases of citizens being conned via phone as well as unsolicited messages and advertisements sent on peoples private phones. The activist who applauds the ICT committee chaired by the outgoing Bunya County MP Vincent Bagire for having worked together to push for its introduction, is optimistic that the law will reduce losses incurred by unsuspecting persons.

Ssebagala who spearheaded the fight against collecting people’s data during the time when UCC was conducting the Sim registration exercise, now calls upon Parliament to withdraw all citizens’ personal information or data that has been generated over the years by Private companies to avoid further misuse or abuse until the law is in place that would guide on access.

How will this law work

If passed by Parliament the Data Protection and Privacy Bill, 2016 will be implemented by the National Information Technology Authority- NITA (U), which has the mandate of monitoring personal data. The Authority is required to co-ordinate, promote and monitor information technology developments in Uganda within the context of national, social and economic development.

It will therefore regulate how personal information is collected and processed under this law.

According to a section to activists, without this law, Ugandans who for instance submitted their personal data to the telecommunication companies cannot enjoy their right to withhold their personal data or even  inquire the purpose of which it is being sought.

The Program Manager at Chapter Four, Peter Magelah, says that with law in place, the public should be in position to enjoy their rights for instance withholding some detailed personal information and also demand to know how this information being collected will be used. Magelah, says he may put strict conditions on how a particular organization should use his information.

And in line with collection and use of personal data, the bill talks about security of data, it obliges the person/organization collecting the information to keep it secure and protect its integrity.

In defiance of the law, one may attract a penalty of imprisonment not exceeding ten years or a fine of Ushs4.8m.

Some of the anticipated culprits of the proposed law are telephone companies which give out people’s telephone contacts to advertising firms for advertisement purposes.

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