Priscilla Chigumba the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commision has claimed that their website was cloned and it seems there has been a lot of confusion because of the statement.
What’s all the noise about?
Chigumba was being interviewed at Capitalk FM when she was asked about the privacy concerns that come with a detailed voters’ roll being online and easily accessible. In response to the question “…and what of the voters’ roll published that has peoples private information, the one that’s available on the internet… That is a cyber-security breach on every level ”, Chigumba said:
That’s a cyber-security breach. They cloned our site and we are in the process of doing something about it and we should have that site taken down in… during the course of the next ( get’s cut by presenter asking “It’s not yet down?”) Uhmm as of 12 midday today it wasn’t yet down.
It’s work in progress. The host is UK-based, so it’s not actually in Zimbabwe so we can’t use any of our local laws to bring it down. We are trying our best.
Because Chigumba said “clone” people have taken this to mean the ZEC website was hacked or compromised and whoever created Zim Election (the site that cloned ZEC) stole the database and uploaded it.
This however is wrong for a couple of reasons…
Let’s talk clones…
When Chigumba says the ZEC site was cloned what she means is that someone made a site that seems like theirs. By clone she does not mean ZEC was compromised or hacked, but that Zim Election (the organisation who uploaded the voters’ roll) made a site that looks similar to theirs. The only problem with this is that this website could not look more different than ZECs. Here are the websites:
I don’t think “clone” is really the best word to describe these two websites…
Anyway, ZEC wasn’t hacked. From listening to the Capitalk interview it sounded like the presenter thought that ZEC was responsible for this incident but that’s not really the case. If the voters’ roll is for sale (as it is) and someone buys a soft copy and decides to upload it online how do ZEC police that?
Did Zim Election do anything illegal?
I don’t think that Zim Election was out of line.
As noted in an earlier article, Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) made an election report and one of the things they advised ZEC was that the voters’ roll should be “accessible and readily available for inspection to the public”. Considering the storied past of elections in our country this is obviously a suggestion that was made to ensure transparency, under the assumption that transparency would be in the best interests of the voting public. The only problem is the fact that the voters’ roll is too detailed and thus making it easily available might not be in the best interests of the voting public after all.
I would be surprised if the electoral commission can take down a site that is hosted outside the country. Before we even consider what the laws concerning this situation we have to consider the fact that the site is supposed to be aiding transparency during elections. For the UK government to take down a site that contains information that opposition parties have been requesting for a long time would certainly not be the best of looks for them. It is actually interesting to see if the UK government will have this site taken down at a time when they have already been accused of being ‘in bed’ with ZANU PF.