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Friday, Feb 28th

Tanzania, Uganda criticised for SIM card registration policies

Tanzania, Uganda criticised for SIM card registration policies

A report by UK-based pro-consumer website Comparitech claims Tanzania and Uganda have in place some of the harshest SIM card monitoring policies in the world.

Based on a point scoring metric of 0 – 21 (according to which policy portfolios are evaluated from strongest to weakest – ie. the lower the score, the stronger the portfolio), Tanzania scored 19, while Uganda scored 15.

The report identifies Burundi, Kenya and Rwanda among those African countries with relatively good SIM card monitoring policies. Kenya scored 12 points, Rwanda scored 11 points and Burundi scored 9 points.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Ethiopia each scored 8 points.

Tanzania and Uganda have adopted biometric SIM card registration and the relevance of this is reflected in parts of the report.

An excerpt reads: "A SIM card is more than a phone. It allows authorities to track people's locations and movements and all of their online activities-websites visited, search queries, purchases, and more can be traced back to their devices."

It adds that creating a database of citizens and their mobile numbers restricts private communication, increases the potential of them being tracked and monitored, enable governments to build in-depth profiles of their citizens and risks private data failing into wrong hands.

According to the report, Tanzania was spared being scored 21 points, the worst rating because individuals are allowed up to eight SIM cards from different service providers and the country's law enforcement does not have invasive interception tools, although they can access data without a warrant.

Andrew Makanya, a telecommunications analyst at Computer Association of Zambia, agrees with the report but added that there is nothing wrong for authorities carrying out biometric SIM card registration "if the aim is to protect citizens from fraud and other related cybercrime activities."

"Don't forget that some countries were named in a Wall Street Journal report last year of having intercepted communications and tracking opponents' social media activities and physical movements, which was wrong," said Makanya.

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