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Data Protection Act 2019 to streamline management of personal data

The Data Protection Commission has launched nationwide campaigns to create awareness among members of the general public over the Data Privacy and Protection Act (DPA) 2019.

The awareness campaigns are intended to sensitise the public to ensure the effective implementation and enforcement of the DPA Act.

The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner is spearheading the efforts to sensitise citizens that will eventually cover all the 47 counties with support from Amnesty International and the Open Institute that have been working to institutionalize citizen-generated data as part of the national statistical system in Kenya.

The Data Protection Commission was established following the enactment of the Data Protection Act, 2019 to make provisions for the regulation of the processing of personal data, to provide for the rights of data subjects and obligations of data controllers and processors.

The Data Protection Act seeks to protect the privacy of the individual and personal data by regulating the processing of personal information by data controllers and processors.

The Data Commission is using the county sensitisation tours to keep Kenyans abreast of what the data commissioner is doing as enshrined by the law in data protection and to also get the buy-in of all stakeholders.

The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner kicked off its countrywide awareness campaign last week aimed at sensitising Kenyans on data protection in Machakos County before visiting Tana River and Garissa counties.

The Data Protection Commission is also engaging some critical stakeholders in a collaborative effort to step up public education on the need to protect personal data, monitor the compliance status of digital controllers and processors.

In Garissa, Deputy Governor (DG) Abdi Dagane who graced the event said in the fourth industrial revolution data is critical and that the ‘future is data and Kenya must not lag behind’.

DG Dagane said in this digital era, it is a global best practice to have a data protection law in place.

The DG said Kenya needs to have a strong data protection law as more and more citizens use digital tools in this data age which exposes their data to cyber threats like phishing, malware, data exfiltration and ransom ware.

Dagane called for concerted efforts to enhance the digital security systems against the growing threat of cybercrime at a time personal data of the citizens are increasingly stored in hundreds of databases.

With cyber security threats to online businesses and personal profiles growing at an exponential rate, the DG called upon stakeholders to prioritise cyber security and adopt a proactive approach when dealing with cyber security matters.

“Public and private entities must safeguard personal data collected from the public to provide services,” he said and lauded the progress being made in legislations that deal with data privacy and protection.

He added that for the digital superhighway and digital economy agenda of the national government to succeed, there must be safeguards that will protect the processing of individual and personal data.

He said investment in the data economy is vital for any country seeking to deepen global competitiveness.

The Deputy Governor says Kenya must have a strong law that can be enforced to protect the privacy of citizens.

He lamented the level of fraudulent activities being perpetrated by scammers who had unauthorised access to data of citizens with the aim of swindling them but added that with the enactment of the data protection law the era of data theft would be a thing of the past.

“Data theft is one of the most thriving businesses in the world today,” he said, adding that there is a need for robust data protection regulation in the country.

Dagane also contends that the Data Privacy and Protection Act would open up opportunities for investments in the ICT sector noting that it was pertinent to have education on cyber space since most people find themselves in trouble due to ignorance on the matter.

Abdullahi Ali, Principal Data Protection Officer says the Data Protection Act 2019, marks a new era in the management of personal data in the country.

He says electronic data organizers whether public or private must ensure protection of personal data in their systems.

“For local and international investors a data-secured environment is a major attraction and it’s an assurance that their information is safe and secure and not subject to abuse,” he said.

Ali says the data protection law is not crafted in any way to punish citizens rather to create awareness so that we will all be accountable to one another whether as data controllers or data processors.

He says creating awareness through data privacy would empower citizens to demand for and enforce their digital rights at a time individuals and organizations are moving almost everything into digital platforms.

The Data protection officer says public and private entities would be held accountable for data breaches or privacy violations and this will in the long run encourage them to take data protection seriously and implement adequate technological and organizational measures in order to protect personal data.

“One should decide how their personal data is used, who uses it and why it is used from an individual or a customer’s perspective,” he said during the sensitisation forum that touches on right to data portability, right to erasure, right to restriction of processing, right to ratification and rights to regarding automated decision making among other topics.

He says the Office of the Data Commissioner is ready to open regional offices and build the capacity of public servants in data protection.

Victor Ndede Digital Rights Manager at Amnesty International Kenya says citizens have a right to know how their data is collected, stored, used, processed and shared.

Ndede says they are collaborating with the Office of the Data Protection with the purpose of guiding the operationalization of the data protection act and ensuring that citizens benefit from the advantages of technology without compromising their fundamental rights.

“We are partnering with the data commission in an effort to empower people and enterprises to respect privacy, safeguard data, enable trust and promote privacy and data protection best practices,” he said.

Data Protection Commissioner Immaculate Kassait speaking at the maiden edition of the sensitisation forums in Machakos says Kenya seeks to be exemplary in informing the public about the value of data protection.

“The public is increasingly becoming aware of the importance of protecting one’s personal data which is the first step towards a fully protected country,” she said.

Kassait says since the creation of her office they have embarked on strategic engagements and consultations with critical stakeholders in a bid to raise awareness on data protection and privacy in the country.

“We are focused on sensitizing data subjects about their rights since data privacy and protection occupy a unique place in every facet of our lives and livelihoods,” said the data commissioner.

By Mohamed Hassan

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