The following real-life incident shows how Kenyans ignore their own breach of privacy. A woman went to a shop belonging to a local telecommunications company for a service. She filled out a registration sheet with her details.
Later, a male agent from the shop who served her decided to hit on her via WhatsApp. He took her contact details from the form she filled out and set her a message and his photo.
She rebuked the agent for the breach of privacy. She threatened to report him to his employer. All this time, this agent thought what he had done was right. He thought it wass not wrong for him to pick her contact details and get in touch outside of his workplace. He thought that he did not in any way commit a breach of privacy.
She took screenshots of their conversation and posted them on Twitter. She tagged several renowned people and included the concerned telecommunications company in her tweet. The company assured her they would follow up on the matter.
However, she got bizarre and callous responses from many people who saw her tweet. They became sarcastic and blamed her for publicising the matter on Twitter.
Those who blamed her showed no sympathy towards her or cared about her breach of privacy. Instead, they sympathised with the agent from the telecommunications company. They blamed her saying that, because of her ‘ignorance’, the person could have lost his job. Some even hurled insults and sexual epithets at her.
The situation became about blaming the victim and sympathising with the perpetrator.
There are no excuses for this situation. The wpman 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 the 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 defence in law. Maybe, this is not the first time he has done the same thing.
To make matters worse, the form the lady 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 the lady goes to the telecommunication company’s shop, she is seeking, she is confident that the information she provides will be private and confidential. Therefore, the company in question assures her automatically 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 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.
Some even go as far as telling her that she should just ignore the person. Alternatively, 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
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 here think she deserves what she gets. They think she deserves the blame she gets 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, the lady in question 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 agent from the telecommunications company losing his job. Maybe they do not know how it feels to another violate their rights.
This incident shows clearly that many Kenyans care very little about their own breach of privacy. This is alarming especially with the increasing situations of breach of privacy by governments and multinationals which puts individual lives at stake. Furthermore, with the rise of data privacy laws, it is upon Kenyans to be more aware about their privacy and that of their data.