Following an attempt to assassinate General Katumba Wamala and the pitiful murder of his daughter, the President decreed that all cars and Boda Bodas must have GPS tracking devices. Most Ugandans have been asking themselves "What next" as the government contemplates making it compulsory for every car on the roads to have these devices installed since it will infringe on their fundamental right guaranteed by the 1995 constitution.
Pursuant to Article 27 of the 1995 Ugandan constitution, no person shall be subjected to an unlawful search of the person, home, or other property of that person or unlawful entry by others of the premises. No person shall be subjected to interference with the privacy of that person's home, correspondence, communication, or other property.
"Like indirect tax, this is not scaring but put straightway; Imagine driving from your psychiatrist to your church and later catch up with friends in a hotel around town, and all through, police are literally trotting after you, it must be numbing "~ a certain member of Ugandan Public notes.
At beginning of the month, the Ugandan government contracted a Russian company that is said to have been declared Bankrupt to install GPS tracking devices in all public and private vehicles, Motorbikes, and motorcycles in the East African country.
GPS tracking devices are inherently perversive and patently intrusive. For example, if all cars have GPS tracking devices and decide to meet for example let's say for lunch hour prayers, an officer somewhere without any constraint can collect and use the information from our GPS, with unprecedented exactness will able to determine all people are associated.
GPS tracking technology is a cheap and multilayered technology with a different actor at each layer. Every tracking device (receiver) has a cellular radio transmitter supported by a sim card that connects the tracking device to a GPS satellite, the receiver calculates and typically displays its location, velocity, altitude, and time by decoding data from the GPS satellite network. This data is accessed by a police officer in real-time through tablets, phones, and other gadgets and it can as well be stored on a computer hard disk or/and government physical and cloud-based data centers for indefinite future reference and it can be freely copied and distributed.
No doubt, this poses privacy issues, for two reasons; one the government as a data collector and controller may not guarantee control over internet service providers and gadget manufacturers from accessing the same data and subsequently sharing it with wrong other third parties.
Secondly, the data collected is disproportionate and unnecessary well against the principle of “data minimality”; GPS tracking technology itself has been declared by courts as pervasive and intrusive. Consequently, GPS tracking technology in absence of strong administrative and technical safeguards is a threat to information privacy.
Lastly, the specific statute; the Data Protection and Privacy Act, 2019, will not offer sufficient safeguard against the government’s unnecessary intrusion. The Act gives public bodies including police unfettered discretion to collect and process personal data which may include this perversive and intrusive personal information related to private trips and movements.
The Data protection and privacy Act can be freely downloaded from here https://ict.go.ug/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Data-Protection-and-Privacy-Act-2019.pdf
Whereas the government has a legitimate interest to protect citizens and their property, it can achieve that objective in a less intrusive way. Otherwise, indiscriminately subjecting all automobile users to full-time, insecure, and compulsory surveillance are akin to the proverbial burning of a whole house to roast a chicken.
The Writer Muhindo Morgan is a Digital Rights Lawyer.