The office of the Interior Cabinet Secretary, now led by Dr Fred Matiang’i, may soon be able to access mobile phone data from an individual suspected of being a spy for a foreign power without a court warrant. This is according to The Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) Bill, 2020. The amendments published by former majority leader Aden Duale on June 3 come at a time when the government is making changes in the fight against cyber espionage.
An amendment to the Official Secrets Act also seeks to allow the Cabinet secretary in charge of Interior Security to issue a warrant, in his own hand, requiring a person suspected of being a spy of a foreign power to provide them with data, including text messages, voice calls, emails, photos and videos contained in their phone, computer or tablet. A suspect will also be required to provide original transcripts and documents related to the said data.
“Any person who fails to comply with a request made under Subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year,” reads part of the law contained in the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) Bill, 2020.
Civil society organizations operating in Kenya have been accused severally by the state operatives of working for foreign powers, particularly the West, to alter the political course of the country.
In 2018, activist Okiya Omtata took the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) to Court. Communications Authority had required mobile service providers to give them access to their systems to safeguard against fake gadgets. The activist argued that the move allowed CA to access the private information of Kenyans. The court declared the move by the case by the Communications Authority unconstitutional.
If these amendments come to pass, Kenyans’ privacy rights might be infringed upon in the name of cyber espionage. The Kenyan constitution guarantees an individual’s right to privacy.