Let’s get straight to the point. Yes, your messages are private and encrypted. However, should the Government of Kenya deem the contents of those messages as a breach of national security, they have a right to access them. To be specific, Kenyans face a fine of KES 1 million for refusing to disclose these messages, be it SMSs, emails and WhatsApp messages. All as long as Parliament adopts a proposed law.
Government: Give Us Your Messages or Pay KES 1 Million Fine
The Bill seeks to amend the Official Secrets Act of 1968. Their aim is to underline the State’s latest push to fight crimes such as money laundering, terrorism and cybercrime. Currently, those who fail to comply with orders to provide such information face a jail term not exceeding one year.
This move will make it compulsory for anyone who owns a mobile phone or communication gadget to provide information on persons and data that the State is pursuing national security breaches.
This will also include gadgets belonging to Kenyans that have been used in foreign countries to send information through channels like SMSs, emails and WhatsApp to the country.
Those who fail to provide the records, messages or persons of interest to the security agencies risk a fine of Sh1 million. If not that then a jail term of up to one year.
“Any person who owns or controls any telecommunications apparatus used for the sending or receipt of any data to or from any place outside Kenya, to produce to the Cabinet Secretary or any person named in the order, the original or transcripts of all such data,” says the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2020.
The move also seeks to simply update the law. For example, the proposed law introduces ‘telecommunications apparatus’ that will replace ‘telegrams apparatus’. This is a term that was used before the widespread use of text messages, WhatsApp and emails.
The push comes two years after the State lost a bid to instal surveillance gadgets on mobile phones. The Kenyan courts, however, declared the move illegal, saying that it would amount to intrusion into people’s privacy.