Archive | May, 2019

DOES THE CONSTITUTION OF KENYA 2010 FULLY SECURE THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY?

21 May

By Javas Bigambo

Appreciating constitutionalism in the modern democratic times, the Bill of Rights in Kenya’s Constitution of Kenya 2010 provides a slate of fundamental protections and safeguards for human rights, and one among them is the right to privacy, domiciled in Article 31 of the said Constitution, and it is predicated on fundamental postulates of liberties that are inherently human, which finds a home in the natural law school of thought.

This paper jurisprudentially delves into the right to privacy discourse.

Privacy refers to “The right of an individual (or corporation) to withhold himself and his property from public scrutiny, if he so chooses. It is said to exist only so far as its assertion is consistent with law or public policy, and in a proper case equity will interfere, if there is no remedy at law, to prevent an injury threatened by the invasion of, or infringement upon, this right from motives of curiosity, gain, or malice.”

The Black’s Law Dictionary 6th Edition defines right to privacy has ‘the right to be let alone and the right of a person to be free from unwarranted publicity’.

This right does not find its primacy in the Constitution of Kenya alone, it is tethered to other unrivalled and equally vital legal instruments of international origin and acclaim, such as the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 7 of the European Union Charter.

It is instructive to note that Article 12 of the UDHR globally provides the primary foundation for the right to privacy, as well as Article 17 of the ICCPR.

Specifically, Article 12 of the UDHR provides that;
“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”

This provides a secure global intention and agenda for the comity of nations to take the right to privacy seriously.

Javas Bigambo: Kenyans need to emphatically speak out and demand more from the state on enhancement of privacy and data protection.

To bolster this argument, in Digital Rights Ireland and Seitlinger and Others, the ECJ determined that ‘The retention of data for the purpose of possible access to them by the competent national authorities, directly and specifically affects private life and, consequently, the rights guaranteed by Art. 7 of the EU Charter.’ This went the whole mile of demonstrating the significance of personal data, which is a primary facet of privacy.

In Kenya, data protection issues are a major concern with new pieces of legislation. The laws must be cognisant of the fact that processing of personal data shall be done with the consent of the data subject…right from collection, processing, storage and transmission of personal data, it should be lawful and secure.

In line with the new huduma number registration process, Kenyans have a right not only to demand and to know how secure their data is, and the extent to which any person can access it.

Huduma Namba sample card.

There is so much surveillance in Kenya. For example, the Kenyan Police Service has surveillance powers, established in the National Police Service Act (2011) and the National Police Service Commission Act 2011.

In March 2012, the telecommunications industry regulator, the then-Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK, the precursor to the Communications Authority), announced that it was setting up a system to allow the authorities to monitor incoming and outgoing digital communications.

The right to privacy is a legal issue whose infringement easily attracts a lawsuit hinged on tortious liability. It is an important legal concept in the Constitution of Kenya 2010, as well as within the law of torts in commonwealth jurisprudence. While this view can be rejected a priori, legal, theoretical and contextual issues provide various arguments, which this paper discusses in detail in subsequent sections.

To further entrench and protect the Bill of Rights, the Constitution through Article 22 asserts that “every person has the right to institute court proceedings claiming that a right or fundamental freedom in the Bill of Rights has been denied, violated or infringed or threatened.”

Globally, for ages, privacy has remained a sensitive issue of human concern. In Griswold v Connecticut where the court invalidated a law prohibiting the use of contraceptives, even by married persons, Justice William O. Douglas opined that “there is a zone of privacy within a “penumbra” created by fundamental constitutional guarantees, including the First, Fourth, and Fifth amendments”.

Affirmatively, the classical case of Roe v Wade in 1972 recognized “right to privacy as fundamental, and required that any governmental infringement of that right to be justified by a compelling state interest”. Thus, the right to privacy has its limits, but the limits are to be executed within the margins of law.

The fact the the Constitution of Kenya provides for the right to privacy, by and of itself, provides a critical basis for centrality and sanctity of privacy law. But it offends that broader protection when an avalanche of legislations puncture that protection through such laws as mentioned inhere above.

But the fact that a right is enshrined in the Bill of Rights and protected by the Constitution of Kenya does not make that right absolute. This is true. But human privacy requires more reasonable protection without sneaky circumvention by the state.

Each right has got corresponding obligations and principal limitations which are also provided for by law, though Article 25 of the Constitution of Kenya enumerates certain rights and freedoms that may not be limited. Such rights and freedoms that may not be limited include right to fair trial; right to an order of habeas corpus; freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and freedom from slavery or servitude.

Key Issues on the Right to Privacy
The ideological and foundational premise of the right to privacy globally and constitutionally, intrinsically aims at limiting state power and authoritarian intrusion into the lives of citizens within human societies, or an exposition of private information or infringement of personal spaces devoid of due process to the chagrin of humans.

It is aimed at building and strengthening the pillars of individual respect and firming up of reputational spaces and management, safeguarding personal social and political spaces, and enabling individuals to own their spaces, feel protected and indebted to the law, and not the mercies of the state.

This is informed by the fact that over generations of recorded political history in human affairs, authoritarian regimes have manipulated the law to subdue individuals through mass surveillance and using individual data to root out dissent, limit citizens’ freedoms and manage political interests for state exploitation.

It is therefore fitting and reasonable to arrive at the position that the right to privacy can be positively and negatively construed. The positive view of the right to privacy revolves around the necessity of the state to facilitate individuals by protecting personal spaces, and putting in place legislative, nay legal frameworks that protect individual spaces, which safeguards their integrity, be it social, economic or political.

The negative view of the right to privacy on the other hand revolves around persons being protected form unnecessary intrusion on aspects of their individual identity whether religious, sexual, whatever.

Protection of privacy thus connotes limitation of searches without regulatory frameworks such as search warrants being obtained by security officers before accessing people’s homes, offices among others.

The other fundamental springboard toward protecting right to privacy is accentuated by protection of personal data, and limitations to access of the said data for the benefit and security of the individual. This does not find proper protection in the Constitution of Kenya 2010. When the state or a state agency collects individuals’ data and preserves it at a central repository, access to such data should be protected and accessed only as permitted by strictness of law, to the requisite extent, without possibility of obvious violations.

Emerging Challenges to Right to Privacy as Public Policy Concerns
In the expeditiously globalizing digital world, the other crucial facet of privacy is digital privacy. The internet era provides various internet platforms and spaces where personal data is collected or can be mined for use other than the initially intended purpose.

The inescapable global flow of information for counterterrorism, law enforcement, trade, travel has greatly threatened the right to privacy.
In Kenya, the argument can be propounded that the right to privacy is counter-punched by the right to access information as provided for by the Constitution.

It is therefore not trite to state that right to privacy is not just a constitutional and legal concern, it is also strongly a public policy issue of momentous interest.

In Kenya, the right to privacy can be constitutionally defended, because it is constitutionally protected. But the existing and unavoidable rivulets of limitations drain out the whole strength of protection, leaving the protected right a mere shell of its intended purpose.

Privacy: The State is taking every step and every measure to increase surveillance on the masses in every aspect.

This argument is predicated on protection of state security the tough late-blooming argument in favour of global war against terror.

In Kenya, the important case of Bloggers Association of Kenya V AG, 2018, directed the spotlight on 26 sections of the Computer Misuse and Cyber Crimes Act of 2018, against which the petitioners lamented the extent to which sections of the Act infringe, deny and greatly threaten freedom of expression, media and person besides the right to privacy, property and fair hearing, all of which are domiciled in the Bill of Rights, and contrary to Article 24 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010.

The bloggers held that existing legislation already provided for violations against which the new Act seemed to cater for, such as the Kenya Information Communication Act and the Penal Code and its regulations already criminalised several cybercrimes.

What was worse was the punitive punishments the Act provided. the crime of “fake publication” attracts a fine of 5 million Kenyan shillings or 10 years in prison. Unauthorised interference or interception of state protected computers attracts the longest sentence of 20 years.

The fears of the petitioners were that the act could be misused to censor free expression in the online space, and that directly contradicts the country’s Constitution.

While the new Act aimed at containing and hampering internet-based offences such as cyberbullying, hacking and spreading of fake news, it permeated the sacred grounds of right to privacy.
The Act shifts liability on to the victim or target of the cyber crime.

Of note was that the new Act offers a framework for the timely and effective detection, investigation and prosecution of computer crimes.

Such crimes include unauthorized access to or interference with computer systems by third parties; the distribution of child pornography and online harassment like bullying and stalking; and the production of fake publications. These were clear aspects of infringement and violations of fundamental rights guaranteed and protected by the Constitution of Kenya 2010.

The court, per Justice Chacha Mwita, issued conservatory orders suspending sections are: 5, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52 & 53, against which the petitioners had approached the court.It is proper to underscore that at the intersection of protection of free expression and privacy altogether with state security concerns is the preservation of human dignity and a person’s free space and right to associate without the supervision of the state.

This can be seen through the lenses of the landmark decision that disallowed the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) from effecting a plan to oblige mobile service suppliers in Kenya to install the Device Management System (DMS), which would have heightened state surveillance of all persons in Kenya by monitoring all mobile phone interactions.

The CAK, if allowed, would have to accessed information on all the subscribers’ International Mobile Equipment Identity as well as international mobile subscriber identity, and this would have seriously thwarted the right to privacy of all mobile phone users in Kenya and their recipients.

With the benefit hindsight, Parliament appreciated the place of privacy in Kenya when it passed the the Prevention of Terrorism Act No 30 of 2012, because Section 36 of the Act provides that the police must obtain a warrant from the High Court before the security agents can conduct surveillance on any terror suspect.

In retrospect, as noted earlier, Article 31 of the Constitution of Kenya safeguards the right to privacy which includes the right not to have one’s person, home or property searched, possessions arbitrarily seized, information relating to family or private affairs, reinforced by Article 24 (3) of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, which necessitates that the one seeking to limit any fundamental right is duty bound justify such limitation.Section 15(1) of the Kenya Information and Communications (Consumer Protection) Regulations (2010), states that a licensee “shall not monitor, disclose or allow any person to monitor or disclose, the content of any information of any subscriber transmitted through the licensed systems by listening, tapping, storage, or other kinds of interception or surveillance of communications and related data”.

Through international lenses, there have been interesting juridical positions on presenting further debate that creates a conundrum around the right to privacy imbroglio. For in stance, in Olmstead v. United States, 1928, the Supreme Court held that wiretaps obtained without a warrant and used as evidence in courts of law were not in fact violations of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. But in the same ruling, a lone dissenting opinion of Associate Justice Louis Brandeis held that privacy is in fact primarily an individual right.

Conclusion
From the understanding that an equilibrium must be struck or attained between the right to privacy and the state’s existential interests such as national security, it has seemed obvious that in Kenya, the government has adversely made steps to limit the right to privacy, guaranteeing the same only to the extent that state security and national interests are not curtailed by the enforcement of the said right.

Every Kenyan must care about their privacy, and demand to have it secured as contemplated by the unpretentious parchment that secures governance and God-given rights. 21st century Kenyans and global citizens must ask themselves “What is it that Rosa Parks knew that we don’t,” or we easily forget? This could be a passive way of exiling the Constitution.

To this end, by virtue of the incontestable fact that the constitutionally provided task suffers enforcement glaciation when the interests of the state are deemed at risk, the conclusion is that the Constitution of Kenya 2010 does not fully secure the right to privacy for Kenyans.

The writer has studied Political Science; Law (LLB); and Communication.