A man has moved to court seeking clarification from Safaricom on the safety of money deposited in M-Pesa accounts. This follows an expose on those suspected to be behind a spate of killings of hawkers in the city.
Joseph Gitonga Kihanya and Uzalendo, a lobby group, want it established whether PIN numbers for people with M-Pesa accounts can be accessed by Safaricom staff and if money deposited by Kenyans in those accounts is safe.
The lawsuit comes after the publication of a story in which the M-Pesa details of the individuals named in the expose — Benson Akasi, alias Tall Brown, and Alfred Marenya, alias Wasiwasi — were accessed and publicly revealed.
According to Mr Kihanya, Safaricom customers are exposed to untold risks due to information leaked by its employees and hence the need for the matter to be urgently addressed to prevent loss of money.
They also alleged that the two risk getting mugged by persons who believe that they are in possession of large amounts of money.
“I believe the accounts of M-Pesa should be private, the terms and conditions say so but if the transaction can be revealed by media outlets, it means strangers get to know your transactions and that anyone’s [PIN]can also be given to people who might withdraw money without your consent,” Mr Kihanya said.
He wants Safaricom compelled to investigate how the information was revealed for publication and that the company be investigated too.
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He also wants the two to be paid damages if it is found that their rights were violated following the publication.
However, Safaricom claimed that information regarding the two was released after a court order was obtained on March 11 requiring the release of the call data and M-Pesa statements of the two so as to complete investigations into murder offenses.
The firm, through its law enforcement manager Weldon Singok, asked the court to dismiss the matter, saying that its M-Pesa customers’ terms as well as conditions are clear that balances and PINs are matters of extreme privacy.
According to the Standard Group, they also want the matter dismissed, saying that they do not associate with any unspecified private information that may cause injury to the public.
They sued Safaricom, the Standard Media Group, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Inspector-General of Police and the Attorney-General. Mr Akasi and Mr Arenya are Nairobi City askaris accused of illegally collecting millions of shillings in bribes from hawkers in Nairobi.
Through an investigative series, called “Kanjo Kingdom”, the expose showed how Wasiwasi transacted more than Sh18 million between 2013 and 2016 through his M-Pesa account while Tall Brown cashed in more than Sh4.8 million in 2015 alone.
The money is believed to be proceeds from a brutal bribe-extorting cartel that preyed on hawkers and kiosk owners. High Court judge Isaac Lenaola directed that the case be heard on August 2 and that the two be enjoined in the suit.
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