CSO Challenges UCC Over Mandatory Use of National IDs for SimCard Registration, Threatens Court Action

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Civil Society players have challenged a move by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to allow telecommunications operators to access the National Identity Card Database, and the directive that only a national ID and passport be used during SimCard Registration.

Due to various complaints from the Police over the rising rate of crime that is aided by mobile phones, UCC Executive Director, Eng. Godfrey Mutabaazi ordered immediate deactivation of all unregistered SimCards and cessation of street SimCard vending.

Mutabaazi further directed that a National ID and passport be considered the only valid documents for SimCard registration, asking telecommunications operators to also match their databases with the National ID database to establish whether the identities of registered subscribers are a match.

The directive has since been challenged by members of the Civil Society who claim the act is infringement on the public’s right to communicate anonymously.

According to ‘Unwanted Witness’, a civil society organization that seeks to create secure uncensored platforms for activists, government has failed to put measures to protect personal data and has further failed to take action against individuals misusing it.

“Telecom companies have been misusing people’s data since 2013. Politicians are campaigning via people’s mobile phones and you wonder where they get that information from,” said Geoffrey Wokulira Sebagala, the team lead at Unwanted Witness.

He says allowing telecoms access to more personal data will compromise the public’s right to privacy and will probably increase the rates of assassinations and other crimes.

“We have seen them (Telecom operators) misuse the simple data they have. What more can happen when they access your biography, details of your home and your next of kin?” he wondered while speaking to PC Tech Magazine on phone.

Wokulira said that the move could be a government ploy targeting certain individuals especially journalists and opposition figures.

“It will be hard to share classified information with a journalist via a phone because they will track it back and it will bear bad consequences, Opposition figures will be compromised since they will not have the liberty to communicate anonymously,” he said.

He revealed that they are already engaging UCC, security agencies and the government to make sure telecoms hand over to government all the information they collected.

“We want them to hand over all the information to government since they can’t protect it. If they don’t comply, we will consider the last option which is to go to court.”

Commenting about the development, UCC publicist Pamela Ankunda, through her twitter said; “you voluntarily gave your data to telecoms when you bought your Sim Card. Strange when you turn around to suggest they want to steal your data,”

PC Tech Magazine’s efforts to reach Ms Ankunda for further comment were futile as our calls went unanswered.