Safeguards ordered for Kenyan digital ID


Kenya’s high court said government could go ahead with a new digital ID scheme, as long as stronger regulations were in place and did not use it to collect citizens’ DNA and geo-location data.

Rights groups argued the scheme violated privacy and asked the judges to outlaw the system – under which people will have a single ID number and a card for access to public services.

Government says thousands of people have signed up for the Huduma Namba – “service number” in KiSwahili – plan, agreed to give fingerprints and be entered on a database. It argues the scheme will cut red tape.

The judges ruled last week Huduma Namba could continue, with conditions.

It would be unconstitutional to collect DNA and GPS data – as was suggested in early versions of the plans for the scheme – they said.

“Government may continue to implement biometric and use of data on condition it will enact relevant data protection laws,” the high court said in its ruling.

In November, Kenya passed a data protection law which complies with European Union legal standards, part of its effort to attract investment in its information technology sector.

Government began issuing the new system ID cards to registered Kenyans on Friday.

One of three rights groups that challenged the programme said it took heart from some parts of the judges’ ruling.

“The court noted the roll-out was rushed, agreeing with assertions of the petitioners and the legislative framework for the programme was inadequate,” said George Kegoro, head of Kenya Human Rights Commission.