Some time back, there was this meme that was going around. “Worst lie ever- I have read the terms and conditions and I accept”. It was meant to be funny, but it resonated with me deeply. We often don’t know the terms of use for these applications we have on our phones, and the scary fact is, we are okay with that.

When entering our building, we are required to leave our IDs or write our information on a book, usually black, that every Tom, Dick and Harry have access to. You can not walk into a mall there days without the security guard wanting to check what is in your bag. If you say no, they show you the door. We rush into checking that “I accept” box because we are so desperate to use a service, that we do not realize we are exposing pieces of ourselves to total strangers.

Larry Madowo tweeted on March 6th on how boarding Delta at JFK required facial recognition software instead of showing a passport or a boarding pass. He was worried about the privacy part of it but individuals had no qualms using the system.

 

It is legit scary to know that major Telcos know everywhere you have been by virtue of using their network. They know which clubs you went to and what time, they have records of the dude or chic that dumped you via SMS, how much money you have in your M-Pesa, where you work, where you live, the people you talk to on a daily basis, the list is endless. They can decide what to do what they want with that data they have collected. If they decide to sell it to parties during elections, you find yourself registered in a party you have never heard of or receiving SMSs from people you don’t know.

It is not just telcos, money lending apps too, have been put on the spotlight in recent times over how they handle loan defaulters. Before you can use these apps, you are asked for access to photos, contacts, location etc. Since you are running on empty, you don’t realize there something rotten in the state of Denmark until your boss calls you to his/her office about a strange phone call. The thing is, when you give them access to your contacts, they are at liberty to call anyone and ask them to ask you to pay your loan.

People argue that since you agreed to the terms and conditions of these services, you have no reason to complain. You consented to them having your data.

Liz Lenjo, an entertainment lawyer and Intellectual property lawyer, lecture at Strathmore University and advocate of the high court doesn’t agree. She calls this forced consent. Speaking on data protection and privacy in Africa at the Africa Law tech Festival 2020, Ms Lenjo equated this kind of consent to being held at a ransom, “Users are forced to a ransom. The situation is as, if you don’t give them your data, you can’t have access to their services. This is not free and fair consent.”

Since the European Global Data Protection Regulation came into effect in May 2018, many countries have rushed to have a Data protection law of their own. The GDPR requires data holders to obtain more meaningful consent, increase transparency about what data are collected and why, and provide a way for users to download, transfer, or delete their information.

Kenya, not left behind, signed its law in 2019. According to The Data Protection Act 2019, “consent” means any manifestation of express, unequivocal, free, specific and informed indication of the data subject’s wishes by a statement or by a clear affirmative action, signifying agreement to the processing of personal data relating to the data subject. The fact that the law is there is a reprieve, but it will take a while for it to become fully functional.

Meanwhile, since data is the new gold, governments, private companies, and researchers are increasingly becoming hungry for large amounts of personal information. They use it for purposes ranging from political repression to the development of artificial intelligence algorithms. Individuals often have few options for resisting this demand, short of disengaging from major aspects of modern life.

Whether forced or express consent, individuals must be careful about who they allow having access to their data. If you don’t allow a stranger into your personal space or home, you shouldn’t be careless with your personal information either.

image courtesy of lawyers hub