Protect personal data

Safaricom, Airtel Kenya and Telkom Kenya will be required to notify unregistered subscribers through phone texts, newspaper adverts, radio and television before switching off their sim cards.

This requirement comes after the initial plan to switch off unregistered subscribers on April 15 was pushed to October. The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) reviewed the deadline to allow millions of subscribers who were yet to have their sim cards registered to do so.

To be sure, the requirements detailed in the draft Kenya Information and Communications (Registration of Telecommunications Service Subscribers) Regulations, 2022 are not new. They are largely captured in the existing law, which has unfortunately not been stringently enforced in the past.

And while the review of the deadline is understandable, the authorities cannot afford to keep delaying the switch-off plans, as there is urgent need to weed out fraudsters and cybercriminals who have been hiding behind anonymity to fleece Kenyans by hoodwinking them to send money to unregistered numbers.

Other criminals have been using fake documents to register sim cards for their nefarious schemes. The regulations further limit the number of sim cards one person can have, besides requiring companies that use mobile phone lines for communication and cash transactions to share details of their shareholding, in a move that will be critical to the war on money laundering and other economic crimes.

And while the objectives of the move by the CA are plausible, it cannot escape notice that the regulations give both the telcos and the regulator a lot of room to gather personal data from the public. There is, therefore, need to protect the data so collected, in view of the country’s nascent data protection ecosystem. Such data must be used within the law and must never be accessed by third parties for any other purpose.

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