Huduma Namba case at Milimani lawcourts. PHOTO | BMS
Huduma Namba case at Milimani lawcourts. PHOTO | BMS

Huduma Namba controversy has not ended. Justices Pauline Nyamweya, Mumbi Ngugi and Weldon Korir to render judgment on the validity of #HudumaNamba (NIIMS) later on 30, January 2020.

The case started last year where human rights organizations, activists and members of the public joined to file a case with the Ministry of Interior, immigration and ICT over the over of data.

The first witness for the petitioners @bomu explained the need for better safeguards for children's data.

" There should be more special safeguards on the collection of children's data and this should have been dealt with in advance," says witness in response to cross-examination questions from GoK counsels.

" It is not necessarily true that taking biometric data of children will reduce cases of child trafficking and child labor,"  says witness as cross-examination of the initial witness concludes.

The Witness was asked if the government knows where children are born and where they live is necessary.

Re-examination began and witness asked and agreed despite this information being necessary, it need not be in digital form.

The first witness asked which areas are problematic for children. The response:

-No law that talks about the collection of children’s data or issuing ID to children - Registration of Persons Act applies to citizens over the age of 18 years 

Witness made an Access to Information request to the Ministry of Interior to obtain more information about the #NIIMS systems and whether it was being developed (the technology)  locally.

This was done around December 2018

So far, no response received.

" Decentralized would mean no link - silos of data rather than a federated database that would connect information across databases via a unique identifier, "  explained the expert witness 

There are no adequate and/ or proper safeguards for the protection of the data and/or personal information intended for collection under the NIIMS, hence there is a violation and/or threat of violation of the right to privacy guaranteed under Article 31 of the Constitution.

Most digital identity programs follow a centralized and ubiquitous model, without delivering incremental benefits to users. 

The central digital identity is linked to multiple other IDs and purposes for each user. This framework provides an ability to track and log everyday activities and transactions of a user.

High profile cases have demonstrated that these programs can create the risk of 360-degree profiling and surveillance of users by governments and private actors with access to the databases associated with such programs. 

Such an ecosystem can be hugely detrimental to the fundamental right to privacy of users.

The problem is accentuated in countries with a lack of comprehensive privacy and surveillance frameworks, compromised institutional standards, and weak independent enforcement.

In such countries, financial incentives become stronger for governments and private businesses to delay and dilute privacy and data protection standards, while enabling risky digital identity programs. 

The mandatory nature of most digital identity programs leads to exclusionary outcomes. Marginalized groups unable to enroll, due to a variety of circumstances, such as poor technology infrastructure, gaps in technology design, etc.,  

Marginalized populations are being affected the most. Populations such as refugees, transgender people, and those affected by HIV are being required to register in digital identity programs, as a pre-condition to receiving aid. 

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