CJ Koome: Data privacy is a legal, basic human right

Chief Justice Martha Koome gives a speech during a previous event. [David Gichuru, Standard]

Chief Justice Martha Koome has emphasised the importance of data privacy as a basic human right. 

Koome said privacy is not merely a legal or regulatory obligation; it is a fundamental human right enshrined in the Constitution and international human rights instruments.

"It is a cornerstone of individual autonomy and dignity, essential for fostering trust in the digital ecosystem,” she said. 

Speaking during the opening ceremony of the Ninth Network of African Data Protection Authorities (NADPA) annual general meeting in Nairobi, on Tuesday, the CJ said the proliferation of remote transactions has brought convenience and efficiency to our lives, but it has also heightened the risk of fraud and misuse of personal information."

"Every time individuals engage in online activities, they leave behind a digital footprint—a trail of personal data that, if mishandled, can result in identity theft and erosion of trust in digital services,” she said. 

Justice Koome said balancing the imperative of providing secure services with the protection of individual's privacy rights is a complex and multifaceted endeavour.

"It requires careful consideration of the trade-offs between security measures and privacy safeguards, recognizing that these decisions ultimately have profound implications for our democratic values and human rights,” she said 

The CJ explained that as we exploit the potential of data to improve operational efficiency, better customer service and personalised marketing, it is the duty of institutions that use data to ensure that their customer’s rights to privacy are respected and upheld. 

 “The importance of data protection lies not just in compliance with laws, but in upholding the trust and confidence that citizens place in public institutions. Our responsibility as regulators and protectors of privacy is to ensure that data collection adheres to stringent data privacy principles,” she said. 

Data Commissioner Immaculate Kassait said that the conference aims to strengthen the implementation of robust data protection frameworks. 

“The conference aims at facilitating the sharing of knowledge and experiences among African data protection authorities in order to strengthen the implementation of robust data protection frameworks. The conference will provide a platform for capacity building and showcase best practices in data governance on emerging technologies and initiatives,” she said.

The NADPA annual general meeting that runs from May 7 to 9 brings together more than 700 delegates from 25 countries. 

The conference, with the theme "Promoting Regional Data Governance for Digital Transformation," seeks to provide a platform to network and exchange knowledge, and gain new ideas and perspectives from peers on Africa’s digital transformation journey.

Participants will also discuss data governance frameworks, especially in emerging areas on regulation of personal data, cross-border data transfer and technological advancements such as AI, blockchain and the Internet of Things.