Thursday, 20 October 2016

CyberCrimes Bill: Too many wrongs to ignore

The draft cyber crimes bill if enacted will give lot of room for law enforcement agents to harass the citizenry.  It’s another addition to their arsenal in these already dark times.  In its current state, the cyber space will be like First Street in a riot situation.  GOV is taking their anti-people brutality online and this piece of legislation (albeit plagiarized) is legalizing the beginning of ICT's Dark Ages in Zimbabwe.  

The bill is targeted at the people whilst seeking to protect the establishment from scrutiny. It’s nothing for the people, all for the regime. This is why it’s silent on important issues (for any modern civilisation) including sexism and gender-based hate language, it does not recognize the admissibility of evidence against authorities e.g. police brutality or corruption at roadblocks.  Interestingly, like any ZANU PF bill, it’s riddled with oversights leaving it open to abuse by the authorities.   

Here are several sections of the bill that will most likely be abused by our seemingly overzealous (and easily given to brutality) law enforcement agents.

Search and seizure
Section 29: (2) If a police officer that is undertaking a search based on Section 28(1) has grounds to believe that the data sought is stored in another computer system or part of it in its territory, and such data is lawfully accessible from or available to the initial system, he shall be able to expeditiously extend the search or similar accessing to the other system.

The bill bases the actions of the investigating officer on belief rather than evidence.  In this case, emotion, instinct, or intuition takes precedence over fact.  It will not be a surprise if Magaya or Makandiwa’s prophecies become basis for officers to extend their accessing to other systems (including your girlfriend’s phone, your mother’s WhatsApp groups). This gives them unfettered permission to harass anyone close to you.

Section 30: (1) Any person, who is not a suspect of a crime or otherwise excluded from an obligation to follow such order, but who has knowledge about the functioning of the computer system or measures applied to protect the computer data therein that is the subject of a search under section 28 must permit, and assist if reasonably required and requested by the person authorized to make the search by:

Whether its Desperation or outright insanity, we will determine with time. This clause suggests the regime has no experts with capacity to execute the heinous tasks.  Recruitment in the security sector over the years has been focused on thanking ZANU PF youthies for protecting the regime rather than intellectual capacity. That means ‘innocent’ geeks out there are now a target. Not the best time to be a computer whiz in Zim or is it?

Production and order
Section 31: If magistrate is satisfied on the basis of an application by a law enforcement officer or police officer that specified computer data, or a printout or other information, is reasonably required for the purpose of a criminal investigation or criminal proceedings, the magistrate may order that:
(a)        a person in the territory of Zimbabwe in control of a computer system produce from the system specified computer data or a printout or other intelligible output of that data;  or
(b)        an Internet service provider in Zimbabwe to produce information about persons who subscribe to or otherwise use the service.

ISPs will become unwilling snitches. When the judiciary which is under heavy pressure to protect the interests of the executive finally gives in, we are likely to see permissions granted willy-nilly. Millions of warrants will be issued and GOV will (with an evil grin) keep a tab on every citizen who thinks right.  What will happen to the rate of abductions?

Partial disclosure of traffic data
Section 33: If a police officer is satisfied computer data is reasonably required for the purposes of a criminal investigation, the law enforcement or police officer may, by written notice given to a person in control of the computer system, require the person to disclose relevant traffic data about a specified communications to identify:
(a)        the Internet service providers; and/or
(b)        the path through which a communication was transmitted

Police officers are given too much power and given the brutal way they react to public protests, target institutions will be harassed left, right and centre.  This clause will allow the beleaguered regime to infiltrate and/or blackmail individuals, CSOs and companies. Where is the citizen protected in all this?

No monitoring obligations
Section 37 (1) An Internet service provider shall, subject to the provisions of any other written law, have no general obligation to monitor the data which it transmits or stores; or actively seek facts or circumstances indicating an unlawful activity.

Instead of disallowing ISPs from monitoring citizens’ private communications, the clause gives them the option to choose to do it when they want. It’s a bill that infringes on our rights to privacy.  The section further allows The Minister to prescribe procedures for service providers to report alleged illegal activities by recipients of their service. This will break the little trust that had existed between citizens and service providers.  We will no longer trust them especially with their bonus minutes, free SMS, mega bundles and promotions.
We implore this session of parliament to do the first honourable thing since the start of their mandate in 2013: reject the cybercrime bill.

For the good of the Republic!

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