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Report finds data protection loopholes in Tanzania’s biometric SIM registration drive

Ghana SIM card re-registration continues
Report finds data protection loopholes in Tanzania’s biometric SIM registration drive

Tanzania’s efforts in crime prevention, social protection and financial inclusion through digital identity are commendable but the government has to do more in the area of data protection especially as the country continues its push for mobile-based digital ID initiatives such as biometric SIM card registration.

This observation is contained in a recently published report commissioned by the Digital Agenda for Tanzania Initiative (DA4TI).

DA4TI is a Tanzanian civil society organization fronting the campaign for digital literacy, digital rights, digital inclusion, safety, peace, entrepreneurship and technopreneurship. Tanzanian digital and privacy rights lawyer Josephina Nshunju played a key role in authoring the report.

According to the report, a weak digital identity legal framework has led to mobile network operators (MNOs) failing to respect commitments taken with regard to data privacy and protection.

This, the report says, is as a result of the failure of the government to set up a data protection authority as provided for in the 2022 Personal Data Protection Act, failure by MNOs (six licensed ones) to provide clear and transparent privacy policies, a government policy which requires disclosure of data collected from a surveillance system under certain conditions, and inadequate laws on information security, among others.

A government directive in 2018 called on all mobile telephone users in Tanzania to re-register their SIM cards with biometrics and the national ID card issued by the National Identification Authority (NIDA), the report recalls, with many registration deadlines set after that. Since then, there have been worries about infringements to the rights of more than half of the 61.9 million mobile subscribers in the country.

While the report agrees that MNOs have been playing a great role in accompanying Tanzania’s digital economy and inclusion efforts, it urges them to adhere to their commitments of ensuring the right of subscribers to privacy and data protection. It calls on other stakeholders such as the government, civil society organisations, and researchers to play their role in upholding data privacy and security standards.

Ghana biometric SIM card re-registration continues

In Ghana, the activity has also had its own issues, not less linked to data protection and security. But there seems to be progress given the number of SIM cards being linked, reports Pulse Ghana.

Last month, Communications Minister Ursula Owusu-Ekuful said in a parliamentary briefing that more than 28 million SIM cards have been linked to the Ghana Card since the exercise started in October 2021.

Meanwhile, Owusu-Ekuful also said during the briefing that all merchant SIM cards have to be linked to the Ghana Card. The deadline was June 30 in principle, per a report by Developing Telecoms. An estimated 280,000 merchant SIM cards are still unregistered in Ghana.

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