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Data protection waiver to spy on tax cheats

Data protection waiver to spy on tax cheats

The Kenyan Treasury’s proposal to amend the Data Protection Act, 2019, has stirred significant controversy. The proposed changes would grant the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) unrestricted access to sensitive personal data without needing a court warrant.This data includes property ownership, bank accounts, and details held by various institutions such as banks, telecom operators, utilities, schools, land registries, and the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA). The amendment also aims to integrate these databases with the KRA’s digital system, iTax.

Legal practitioners and organizations, including the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) and Amnesty International Kenya, have voiced serious concerns about this proposal. They argue it represents a significant infringement on the right to privacy and could lead to potential abuse of power by the government. Amnesty International Kenya, along with Article 19 Eastern Africa, presented their objections to the Finance Committee, emphasizing that the proposed blanket exemption from data protection laws is unconstitutional.

Article 24 of the Kenyan Constitution states that any limitation on rights and fundamental freedoms must be reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality, and freedom. The organizations argue that the proposed amendment does not meet these criteria and should be rejected. They stress that privacy rights can only be limited under stringent conditions that align with constitutional requirements, which this proposal fails to satisfy.

The opposition to the amendment highlights the importance of balancing government powers and individual rights, especially concerning sensitive personal data. The debate underscores the need for careful consideration of privacy implications and the potential for misuse of such extensive access to personal information.

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