GOVERNMENT is in the process of updating its cyber statutory Bills ostensibly to protect online users and curb cybercrimes, but the measures will strengthen its spying activities on citizens.
The proposed legislative measures, which would give government greater control of cyber space, are the Data Protection Bill, the Electronic Transaction and Electronic Commerce Bill, and the Computer Crime and Cybercrime Bills.
The Computer Crime and Cyber Crime Bills, if passed, would allow government to remotely instal forensic spying tools onto citizens’ communication devices. A remote forensic tool is defined in the draft Bill as an “investigative tool, including software or hardware installed on or in relation to a computer system or part of a computer system and used to perform tasks that include but are not limited to keystroke logging or transmission of an IP address”.
The Zimbabwe Independent is in possession of the preliminary versions of the draft Bills.
The intention of the bill, among other things, is reportedly to crackdown on journalists and bloggers.
Close sources within government said there is a sense of panic over the emergence of online operators publishing news that expose government corruption, among other things.
The rise in popularity of websites such as newzimbabwe.com, www.zimnewsblog.com, and
www.zimsituation.com among many others, has triggered government action to promulgate a law that will regulate the work of online publishers.
Online operators found to be writing stories that can be damaging to government officials or the president will face treason charges.
Government has in the past harassed media practitioners using state security agents.
Digital Society of Zimbabwe co-ordinator Christopher Musodza told the Independent the timing of the ICT policy raises eyebrows as it could be seen as part of efforts to spy on citizens and limit freedom of expression.
“It is always difficult for governments all over the world to balance between national security and citizens privacy, and I guess Zimbabwe will be in the same dilemma,” he said.
“National security is a crucial element, but we are not sure if it is for the protection of the citizens or to spy on them and prevent the hashtag movements.