Safaricom Denies It Plans To Start Monetizing User Location Data – Here Is What Was Happening

Early this week, I am sure you were bombarded with several articles alleging that Kenya’s biggest telco Safaricom was planning on monetizing user data.

The report emanated from Kenya’s Nation Media Group’s Business site – Business Daily Africa – which revealed the news. Kenyans raised their profound concerns over the issue.

According to the article, Safaricom was seeking suppliers of a location tracking and intelligence platform.

In a tender notice, the telco said, “Safaricom has enjoyed rapid growth since her inception largely driven by the innovation and delivery of new and sophisticated services riding on telephony and data services.”

“Consequently, the evolution of the mobile network and devices has enabled Safaricom to gather information from the connected devices. At the core of any reliably connected device is an accurate location intelligence system.”

In response to the news, the company said in a statement that the tender was for the said intelligence tracking system was for the company’s “internal use.” The company’s current provider of the system had their contracts expire, and the telco is seeking a new contractor that would take this place.

“This is a location-based service, the current RFP solution has come to an end. The new RFP seeks new providers and this is purely for internal services including such use cases as vicinity checks for M-Pesa,” Safaricom said in a statement to Gadgets Africa.

By internal use, one applicable scenario of such a system is ensuring that customers do not withdraw from M-PESA agents out of their vicinity. I am sure you have been saved from withdrawing money through a wrong M-PESA agent out of your area, at least, once or twice.

Can this be Done?

Although the telco denied those allegations, the curious mind would still not rest if we have not solved the question of whether this is possible. One thing you should know if you already don’t; Safaricom knows your whereabouts. Furthermore, they have more than just our location data, in this case.

So, yes, this is possible. But the only barrier that restricts any tech company – including Safaricom – from sharing user data is Kenya’s Data Protection Act, 2019.

Kenya Data Protection Law

In November 2019, Kenya’s proposed data protection laws were officially signed by President Uhuru Kenyatta. The Data Protection Act, 2019 was finally amended and is now in play which aims to protect the privacy of every Kenyan citizen.

It oversees how tech companies collect, handle and share user data. The law is heavily inspired by the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR). Transgressors of the new law – which, covers both companies who own and control the data, to those who offer storage services – are legible for fines of up to KES 3 million or receive a maximum of a 2-year jail sentence.

They already know this, and I’m sure they wouldn’t want to be the first culprits to face the tough side of the law. So, chill, your data is not being monetized. And I hope so, too.

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Alvin Wanjala

Alvin Wanjala has been writing about technology for over 2 years. He writes about different topics in the consumer tech space. He loves streaming music, programming, and gaming during downtimes.

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