Census: State defends decision to collect ID, passport numbers

Enumerator Rose Njagi (left) takes the details of Mary Aguyo, Alexandra Adhiambo, Susan Adhiambo, Anthony Carl and Alender Otieno in Lang'ata estate, Nairobi, on Saturday. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The Government has defended its decision to collect personal identifiers in the ongoing census, saying it is not engaging in unauthorised mass surveillance.

Government Spokesperson Cyrus Oguna said the details are important in helping to verify people’s identities.

Oguna was reacting after a human rights body protested collection of personal details, arguing that questions linked to GPS locations “can identify specific individuals and their homes with the information they supply”.

Amnesty International, in a statement, said collection of unique identifiers is unnecessary and questions on identification (ID), passport, huduma and phone numbers should be reframed.

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“A simple yes or no question on whether one has, or not, a passport and ID would have been enough to establish how many have these documents,” said the rights body.

Amnesty said questions related to personal identification numbers are not within the realm of the matters contemplated under the Statistics Act.

“The collection of vast amounts of sensitive personal data on digital devices without a comprehensive data protection law is not in the interest of people, constituencies, counties or the state,” said Amnesty, adding that the Government should uphold its constitutional duty on privacy rights.

Amnesty warning

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But Oguna downplayed Amnesty International’s warning, saying the collection of personal identifiers is important for planning.

“The ID card numbers are requested for purposes of verification and authentication,” he said.

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He explained that the reason the question is in the census questionnaire is because there are individuals masquerading as Kenyans who got their documents through the backdoor.

“Within the Dadaab refugee camp, for example, there are people registered as refugees and also registered as Kenyans. This process is meant to weed out people with fake IDs.”

Oguna asked Kenyans not to hold back information on these identifiers.

“When asked for the ID and passport (number), please provide it. It is not meant to monitor your activities. It is meant to ensure those with IDs or passport are Kenyans. For those without, arrangements are made for them to be provided,” said Oguna.

Amnesty had said the collection of this personal information by enumerators seemed to mix up responsibilities of the Department of Immigration and the Registration of Persons, and the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).

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Oguna gave assurance that the information collected will be held securely.

“Any data will be with the KNBS. It will be confidential and used for the purpose intended, which is basically planning. So, provide accurate information. This has happened so far and we continue to thank Kenyans for that.”

Oguna also said there is no need for Kenyans to travel upcountry to participate in the census.

“It is not a political exercise. This is a statistical exercise meant to enable the Government to provide better services. So those calling upon their people to go back home and be counted should not do that,” he said.

The census, which is on its third day today, kicked off on Saturday. Road blocks have also been mounted along main highways where enumerators will count those on transit.

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Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i issued a directive for bars, entertainment joints and other business premises to be closed by 5pm in order for Kenyans to be home on time for the counting.

But the Civil Society Reference Group has criticised the directive, saying it infringes on people’s constitutional rights. The group, in a statement, said the directive is not based on any known law and must therefore be treated as a request.

“The country is not in a State of Emergency to warrant the kind of fear being instilled in the people as the exercise that started on August 24 and will continue until August 31 is undertaken,” read the statement signed by the group’s convener Suba Churchill.

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censusEnumeratorGovernment Spokesperson Cyrus Oguna