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Huduma Namba illegal, High Court declares

The High Court has declared the Huduma Namba rollout illegal on grounds of conflicting with the Data Protection Act, 2019.

The ruling comes after Katiba Institute, a lobby group, sued the Interior Ministry, arguing that no safeguards had been given to assure Kenyans that their data will not be abused as the rollout lacked guarantees of theft or misuse of Kenyans personal information.

The lobby group had also argued that the State failed to subject the fresh registration of Kenyans to the Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) — a requirement under the law.

Justice Jairus Ngaah however ordered that government create safeguards to protect Kenyans’ data, as the cards have already been rolled out.

“The government should have conducted impact assessment before rolling out the Huduma Cards, I hereby order for the process to be conducted before proceeding with the rollout,” he ruled.

The assessment is aimed at flagging risks that could reveal breaches of privacy, loss of data, and unlawful use of information like names, date of birth, postcode, and residences. As of next week, Kenyans will start receiving Huduma Namba cards in a gradual rollout.

Katiba Institute argued that the government’s plan to roll out Huduma cards before conducting a data protection impact assessment as required by section 31 of the Data Protection Act.

According to the act, “Where the resulting operation is likely to result in a high risk to the rights and freedoms of the data subject, by virtue of its nature scope context, and purposes, a data controller or data processor, prior to the processing conduct an impact assessment.”

The court, however, noted that a plea that sought to have the Huduma number roll out stopped is of no use since the government has already rolled out the issuance of the cards.

Under Huduma Namba, the State combined all vital documents including the national ID, passport, driving license, National Social Security Fund, and the National Hospital Insurance Fund numbers. The Huduma Number registration required a photo, information about themselves, their parents or guardians, place of birth, phone number, e-mail address, physical and permanent residence, and marital status.

Data collected through the Huduma Namba registration will be stored in the Integrated Population Registration System — the central location for easy electronic access by institutions, including private corporations that provide crucial and sensitive services.

Thousands of Kenyans have already received their Huduma Cards.

Despite the court ruling, the Interior Ministry has been given an opportunity to regularise the rollout.

The Huduma Cards have set the taxpayer back Sh10.6 billion.

The Interior ministry collected data of over 36 million Kenyans for the Huduma Namba and Cards rollout.

According to Government spokesperson Cyrus Oguna, 11.2 million Huduma cards have been processed, but only 6.5 million have been collected.