In a move to control access to online content, the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has issued a directive that could erode digital privacy for VPN users in Tanzania.
The directive urges individuals and organizations to disclose their VPN usage and related information to the Authority by the end of this month.
This move defeats the core purpose of VPNs: to ensure online anonymity and security by masking users' real IP addresses and encrypting their online activities.
While the TCRA casts its directive as a way to curb access to forbidden content, it makes VPN use essentially futile.
VPNs are tools employed globally to secure users' digital identity, ensuring a private communication channel, especially in environments where information is censored or restricted. However, the new regulation would force users to reveal their real IP addresses and online activities to the authorities.
Digital rights advocates from the Tanzania Digital Right Coalition (TDRC) promptly addressed the repercussions of such a directive. They argue that the regulation could severely impair Tanzanians' rights to privacy, access to information, and freedom of speech.
In an Oct. 14 open letter, 23 TDRC members expressed concerns that "TCRA's decision to limit the use of VPNs in Tanzania has far-reaching implications for the digital rights and freedoms of Tanzanian citizens."
The directive undermines the essence of VPNs and threatens some fundamental human rights. Many Tanzanians access popular social media platforms via VPNs to engage in global discussions and share their perspectives.
The TDRC fears that the regulation could jeopardize Tanzanians' freedom of expression and access to information. They outlined a few assessments of the TCRA directive in their open letter:
The TDRC has invited the Tanzanian government and the TCRA to reconsider its decision, emphasizing the importance of a "free, open, and secure internet for all."
The coalition's open letter shines a light on the grave consequences that could ensue if the directive is implemented, calling for a constructive dialogue to address the concerns surrounding VPN usage and digital rights in Tanzania.