Tanzania Government issues demand for VPN users to out themselves

Phone with padlock and Tanzanian colours

If you are using a VPN in Tanzania, beware. The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) expects you to tell them everything about your online habits. And they want you to do it by the end of this month.

On Friday 13th October, the TCRA issued a public notice signed by its Director General, Dr Jabiri Bakari. It said that the TCRA had observed a significant increase in the use of VPNs in Tanzania to access prohibited content and that this was in contravention of the laws and regulations of Tanzania.

There was no indication of how the TCRA had reached this conclusion given that any reputable VPN does not keep logs of what users get up to online, and it would therefore be impossible for the Tanzanian authorities to know what Tanzanian citizens are using their VPNs to do.

Nevertheless, after restating the right of the TCRA to regulate the use of electronic communications in Tanzania and highlighting Regulation 16(2) of the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations 2020, which prohibits the use of any form of technology to access prohibited content, it made a sweeping demand on all Tanzanian citizens and businesses.

TCRA’s Concerns Over Increasing VPN Usage

On or before the 30th October, users are now required to declare to the Tanzanian authorities the fact that they are using a VPN and all relevant personal information about themselves, including their IP Address.

Tanzanian VPN users are instructed to do this via an online form that can be accessed on the TCRA website. We are not, for obvious reasons, sharing a link to that form here.

As attempts to curtail VPN use goes, this is among the weakest and most pitiful attempts that we have seen from a state regulator in some time.

The request, in effect, is pleading with VPN users to fess up to accessing prohibited content and to share with the authorities all of the information they need to try and track their activities moving forward.

It’s as good as admitting that, while they are pretty sure VPN users in Tanzania are using their privacy and security apps to access content that is blocked by the government, they don’t really know who is doing it, how many people are, or what they are accessing, and are therefore asking people to tell them.

It is the technological equivalent of having a knife amnesty outside a police station and expecting the type of young thugs who routinely carry a blade to suddenly see the error of their ways and hand over all their shanks. It is simply not living in the real world.

VPN Usage: A Tool for Online Freedom or a Threat?

There are a number of reasons why people use VPNs in Tanzania and in many other countries around the globe. Securing their online connections and enhancing their online privacy are the two biggies.

But in countries like Tanzania, where the government routinely censors the internet, another hugely popular reason for using a VPN is to access the free and honest information that their government is trying to prevent them from seeing.

Online freedom is a core human right, and where governments seek to deny this to their people, many will do what they need to do to get around the ban. A VPN offers the most effective and straightforward way to unblock censored content and learn the truth about your government, your country, and the wider world.

Many countries like Russia, Iran, and Communist China try to scare people off VPNs or block access to them. Tanzania doesn’t have the resources to even try this (and it has never 100% worked anywhere), so clearly, this is the best that they can muster.

So, what should VPN users in Tanzania do?

Our advice would be to carry on as normal. Be sure to use a premium VPN such as the ones recommended on this site and make sure your VPN’s kill switch is enabled just in case your VPN drops out while looking at something you shouldn’t.

But otherwise, keep using your VPNs to bypass your government’s censorship and ensure the continued free flow of information into Tanzania.

It is clear from this that the Tanzanian authorities want people to stop using VPNs in this way but do not have the means to enforce any real measures to make this happen.

We would be astonished if more than a few hundred people answered this demand to fill in the form and suspect that many of those that do will not tell the whole truth on it.

It may be that further down the line, there will be more measures to try and deter VPN use in Tanzania. But for now, from all the evidence we have seen, VPN users in Tanzania have nothing to fear.

Author: David Spencer

Cyber-security & Technology Reporter, David, monitors everything going on in the privacy world. Fighting for a less restricted internet as a member of the VPNCompare team for over 7 years.

Away from writing, he enjoys reading and politics. He is currently learning Mandarin too... slowly.

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