Data breaches and invasion of privacy are rarely discussions that captivate the majority of Zimbabwean audiences but last year there was one invasion that seemed to stir up the hornet’s nest.
During the 2018 campaign season, ZANU-PF decided it would be a very good idea to send some mobile network subscribers very personal SMSs which seemed to indicate the party had knowledge of where these candidates in particular stayed.
People were pissed off and ZANU-PFs excuse that the messages were sent to party members who had registered to receive them at party meetings didn’t really cut it as most of the people (myself included) had not been to any party meeting.
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With all this in mind, it will come as a relief to many that a bill has been passed making it illegal for political parties to access personal mobile numbers.
According to Nick Mangwana the Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary this bill is informed by citizen’s rights to privacy:
The Protection of Personal Information Bill came from section 75 of the constitution which is our rights to privacy. You know every one of us go to the Registrar General’s Office and you give your information.
You then start receiving text messages from certain political parties and when formulating this bill, people gave an example of the previous elections when people started receiving text messages from certain political parties asking for your vote and you start questioning and asking yourself where they got your information, it makes people uncomfortable because they want their information protected.
There is an expectation that that information will be treated with integrity and for the purpose that you submitted it and not for anything else. If you find out that information has been abused, you have the right to complain.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary, Mr Ndabaningi Nick Mangwana
It will be interesting to note how and if this bill actually affects parties who opt to use bulk SMSs which won’t contain as much subscriber data as part of their campaign. Will they be banned as well or there’s an exception for them?
The bill is said to be awaiting approval from the parliament’s executive, Hopefully, it does not take as long as the Cybercrime bill which was introduced back in 2016 and still hasn’t been adopted into law.