Lessons for Churches and Schools from the OPDC Ruling



By Benjamin Wanguba


Last week, the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (OPDC) fined popular Night Club Casa Vera 1.85 million for using a patron’s image on their social media pages without their consent. At the same time Roma School mixed day & boarding primary school in Uthiru as well was fined 4.55 million for posting a child’s image without parental consent. This is as the OPDC Ruled that the use of these people’s images was a violation of Data Privacy Rights in contradiction to 2019’s Data Protection Act.

These two instances offer a lesson for several institutions key among them clubs, schools, Universities and even religious institutions key among them churches. With social media usage in the country on a rise, institutions have taken to social media to market themselves. Some of the content shared often captures civilians and event attendees and may not always have received consent from those appearing.

The ruling has since forced night clubs to come up with innovative ways to identify revelers who want their images to be taken or not. One such measure is the introduction of wristbands. The wristbands are used by photographers to identify who would like to be captured by the photographers. These precautions will go a long way in ensuring consent is given and that people’s data are protected.

However, I feel churches have a lot to learn from this ruling. As someone who has served in the media ministry of a church, the ruling serves as an awakening point. Going forward religious institutions will have to devise mechanisms to obtain consent from worshipers to use their images to avoid befalling the same fate as Roma School and Casa Vera. This can be in form of marking certain sections where if sat, one can be photographed. Alternatively, churches can also avoid photographing worshipers and maybe just capture those involved in leading the service.

Universities and learning institutions too will have to seek the permission of students in the use of their images and in some cases even offer renumeration. In 2022, Justice Margaret Waringa of the High Court awarded a former Machakos University student 700,000 after the institution used her image as part of a marketing campaign. This is not an isolated incident as a University of Nairobi student successfully sued Kabianga University for using his image without his consent. The February 2023 ruling resulted in the former student being awarded 500,000 shillings.

All in all, this is a wakeup call for all Kenyans and Kenyan organizations to practice sharing of Images on social media with care.

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