The following incident shows how Kenyans ignore their own breach of privacy. A lady called Laura goes to a telecommunications company’s shop for a service. She fills out a registration sheet with her details.
Later, an agent from the shop who served her decides to hit on her via WhatsApp. He takes her contact details from the form she fills out and sends her a message and his photo.
Laura rebukes the person for the breach of privacy. She threatens to report him to his employer. All this time, this person thinks what he has done is right. He thinks it is not wrong for him to pick her contact details and get in touch outside of his workplace. He thinks that he did not in any way commit a breach of privacy.
Laura takes screenshots of their conversation and posts them on Twitter. She tags several renowned people and includes the concerned telecommunications company. The company assures her they will follow up on the matter.
However, she gets bizarre and callous responses from many people who see her tweet. They become sarcastic and blame her for publicizing the matter on Twitter.
Those who blame her show no sympathy towards her or care about her breach of privacy. Instead, they sympathize with the agent from the telecommunications company. They blame her saying that, because of her ‘ignorance’, the person could lose his job. Some even hurl insults and sexual epithets at her.
The law protects Kenyans against breach of privacy
The situation becomes about blaming the victim and sympathizing with the perpetrator.
There are no excuses for this situation. The lady has the right to deal with the issue in the manner she thinks someone will listen. After all, she also speaks for many others whose rights are violated by persons they trust to keep their personal information private and confidential.
A breach of privacy involves improper or unauthorized collection, use, disclosure, retention or disposal of personal information.
Publicizing the incident on Twitter is her way of knowing that those concerned will follow up on the matter. All the attention her tweet received is enough to warrant a deep conversation on consumer rights to privacy. The Constitution guarantees the right to privacy.
The Kenya Information and Communications (Consumer Protection) Regulations are clear on breach of privacy. Section 3 (1) says a customer shall have the right to—
(d) Personal privacy and protection against unauthorized use of personal information;
The ignorance portrayed by those who insulted her leaves a bad taste in anyone’s mouth. The agent from the telecommunications company should know better. Ignorance is not a point of defense in law. Maybe, this is not the first time he has done the same thing.
Keeping information private and confidential
To make matters worse, the form Laura fills out has all her private details. We are not only talking about her phone number. There are also details like her physical address. What if the person decides to stalk her? Wouldn’t he go straight to her house? Wouldn’t that put her life in danger?
When Laura goes to the shop, she is seeking a service. She is confident that the information she provides will be private and confidential. The company in question assures her that they will guarantee her privacy. Therefore, when she goes home, she does not expect someone from the company to breach her privacy for self-centred reasons.
In fact, with the current trend of ‘fisi’ or ‘mafisi’, typically the group of men ‘hunting’ women for sexual gratification, she has all the right to be afraid.
Yet, those who insult and criticize her are ignorant. They propagate the hatred against women.
Blaming the victim
Some even go as far as telling her that she should just ignore the person. Alternatively, that she should tell him off and forget about the situation. Typically, many Kenyans love to forget and move on. They have a very short memory span like warthogs.
Victim blaming is not just about avoiding culpability—it’s also about avoiding vulnerability (Psychology Today)
People who rush to blame and shame the victim lack empathy. When empathy is absent, it is hard not to blame the victims for their own predicament.
Those who blame the victim in this case think she deserves what she gets. They think she deserves the blame for her own breach of privacy and the repercussions thereafter. By doing so, they exonerate the perpetrator.
Typically, blaming the victim aids in helping the perpetrator evade the blame or responsibility for their own actions.
Therefore, Laura is justified to act the way she did and thought she could be heard.
Many people with their biases made the issue to be about the person from the telecommunications company losing his job. Maybe they do not know how it feels to have their own rights violated.
This incident shows clearly that many Kenyans care very little about their own breach of privacy.