Why law to protect privacy is crucial

Dar es Salaam. The Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) has advised the government to come up with a Bill on the protection of data and privacy.

Once the Bill is endorsed by the National assembly and assented to by the President, Tanzania would have a statute on data protection and privacy, the THRDC national coordinator, Onesmo Olengurumwa, says.

Such a law should provide procedures to follow when a person, an organisation or an authority needs to obtain personal data and private communications.

“Currently, on the pretext of public interest, there is room for authorities to hack into someone’s information through his/her communications devices like a telephone, a computer. But the approach is wrong and prone to abuse,” he told a press conference yesterday.

According to Mr he proposed law would also identify key processes to follow and which would empower relevant institutions to demand private information, data, etc.

“The existing laws – like the Electronic and Postal Communications Act, 2010, and the Cybercrimes Act, 2015 – empower the police, the courts, public officials and politicians to hack private information,” he noted.

The proposed law should give authority to courts as the only organ that can approve or hack personal information and the privacy of people, not otherwise.

“The courts should remain the sole authority with mandate to authorise the use of personal communications and information – but only if required as evidence in court proceedings or for national security. If such information is taken according the law then it should be used for the intended purposes only and not illegally,” Olengurumwa, said.

A THRDC advocacy officer urged the government to give a definition of ‘public interest’.

“The rights to privacy are mostly violated on the excuse of public interest, but no one has explained what it really means. There’s no legal definition of public interest,” he stressed.

He added that there is also a need to create a mechanism to monitor authorities. This can be done by forming parliamentary committees, appointing a monitoring commissioner, etc.


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