Zimbabwe Is Squeezing Its Top Mobile Money Platform for Users’ Data as It Clamps Down on the Media
By Tawanda Karombo
Zimbabwean authorities are demanding the country’s biggest mobile money platform to give up half of all transaction files for 2020 to law enforcement agents under a crackdown the operator says violates telecom user data privacy rights. It comes as the beleaguered government clamps down on anti-government economic protests and the media, including the arrest of a well-known anti-corruption journalist.
The EcoCash platform, with 7 million active users as at the end of March this year, is the most used mobile money service in Zimbabwe but the government now alleges EcoCash has been complicit in money laundering activities which resulted in foreign currency mopped up from the streets through agents and bulk payer lines being externalized from Zimbabwe.
On Friday (July 17) , police agents descended on the company’s head office in Harare armed with a search and seize warrant to confiscate data files containing subscriber and transaction details for the period January to June 2020. This has raised concerns over data privacy and protection of subscriber details as well as transaction information that is now in the hands of police and could be publicly used as evidence against EcoCash in court.
The government has been at odds with the EcoCash for several months as its currency crisis and economic woes have spiraled out of its control. Last month Zimbabwe’s central bank slammed EcoCash for running, what it called, a Ponzi scheme.
Photo courtesy of Erik (HASH) Hersman.