Q&A – 27 December 2010

Identity theft on google.com

I find my picture, my full name, and personal details including where I live and work on face book, and what beats it all is that the information is correct. The person is pretending to be me, connecting with my friends and talking all sort of rubbish. I am not a member of facebook and have a good reputation. The facebook page shows that I am a single woman and am desperately looking for short term relationships for purposes of sexual relations. I came to know this as over the last few weeks I have been receiving phone calls from unknown men who are showing an interest in me. Initially I thought I was being complimented only to find out that the men think I am some sort of call girl. This is causing me great embarrassment. I am also at the verge of losing my fiancé who has somehow started to believe all this. What can I do? My friends tell me it is impossible to locate or sue facebook because they are way too big.
LH, Dar

Technology comes with a lot of advantages but clearly you have spotted the down side of such advancement. Identity theft is the next big challenge in the cyber world. It is said that some website companies are even more powerful than governments as they can spread information efficiently, aggressively and at the speed of light. Yes, this is a serious concern not only for you but a citizen of any country. Cyber crime is on the rise and has caught many people off-guard.

To answer your question, you do have a cause of action against facebook.com, the person who is impersonating you and any other service provider who is disseminating this information to the world at large.

Whilst you can open multiple law suits and sue for defamation, the fastest way to salvage the current situation is to write to facebook and get them to investigate the matter. We are informed that facebook takes identity theft very seriously and upon doing quick investigation, they will block the user from impersonating you. You are not the first one who has had this issue on facebook.

As for not being able to locate or sue facebook, please be informed that facebook is a well known company in the United States and a summons can be served upon them from Tanzania. The fact that they are big does not mean you cannot sue them- there is no law that stops you from suing them.

We also wish to mention that in our experience, it is always close friends, or former friends, who tend to impersonate. After all they have access to all your information. I would not trust ‘the not being able to sue’ advice from your ‘friends’. On the contrary we would start raising our suspicion on these friends and investigate which of these so called ‘friends’ might be involved in this identity theft. When you find out, you can join that friend in the law suit as well.

Lastly, facebook has been sued many times for various reasons. We are informed that it has been sued before for breach of privacy, breach of confidentiality, defamation and unlawful transfer of data. What you have experienced is indeed actionable and you should contact your attorneys for further guidance.

Old owner after my land

I moved with my family from my home village to Dar es Salaam 16 years ago and settled in a place called Tegeta. When I moved here, there were very few people in this area and I settled here with my family. About two years ago, a man who seems to be well off, came to my plot and said I should leave since that plot belonged to him. He even showed me an old contract and certificate of occupancy showing that he had been allocated/sold the plot even before I moved in. Few months ago, the same man came with the police to try and forcefully evict me. What does the land law say? Can he interfere with my rights just like this?
GH, Dar

The Law in Tanzania is clear in that anyone who has a write of occupancy, what is commonly called a title deed, is required to develop it within a reasonable time or as per the directions given in the certificate of occupancy. We are not sure where this man was for over sixteen years only to wake up one fine day- there is something seriously wrong somewhere.

In the land laws, there is what is called adverse possession which simply means that if a person moves into a land, occupies it and develops it for 12 years or more with no interference whatsoever from the true owner of that plot, then that person who has occupied it for the 12+ years acquires adverse possession. The person who owns land under adverse possession has the same legal rights over the land to the person who is granted a right of occupancy over the land.

Further to that, the law allows the person with adverse possession over the land to apply and obtain a title deed on the said plot. Hence if all that you have stated is true, and you have not withheld any information from us, you are the rightful owner of the plot and the eviction is illegal.

As for the Police’s interference, unless there is a Court order for your eviction, the police cannot evict you.