View profile

We are definitely not safe

I am still shocked that most South Africans are not shocked about the indiscriminate mass surveillanc
September 3 · Issue #64 · View online
iAfrikan Daily Brief
I am still shocked that most South Africans are not shocked about the indiscriminate mass surveillance that has recently been revealed to have been carried out by the state. However, I am not surprised, there’s just too much going on in South Africa at the moment. - Tefo Mohapi

I read a tweet but I spent half an hour trying to find it so I can include it in today’s newsletter but gave up as it felt like I was wasting precious time. It went something like this:
“Before Twitter and Facebook existed, I do not know how I managed to maintain such a consistent and intense level of anxiety about current affairs.”
Since Monday, the current affairs news in South Africa have been nothing short of tragic. Missing women, murdered women, raped women, xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals, and more. It’s worse if you are plugged in to social media like Neo in The Matrix, you are somehow bound to get some level of anxiety.
Yet, in the midst of all this, South Africa is getting revelations of wide spread indiscriminate bulk interception of communications that happened, and is probably the largest ever of its kind in Africa, and probably still happening.
To give you a better perspective than I did in yesterday's newsletter after chatting to Murray Hunter (who was involved in the court cases against the South Africa's State Security Agency), the authorities snooped on both undersea fibre cables and satellite communications and indiscriminately collected as much data as they can between 2008 until 2017(?, beyond?). How this was used or analyzed, no one knows.
Today I had a chat with Murray Hunter, a researcher on digital rights who is in the process of publishing a children’s book about surveillance, Boris the BabyBot.
What struck me and has since stuck with me is how nonchalantly this has been handled even during the 2017 court cases. It is striking because it is not legal and it is unconstitutional.
“Hell no. As early as 2008 the Matthews Commission warned that this kind of mass surveillance is unconstitutional, but there is *no law* that enables it. The RICA law, as bad as it is, is clearly designed to regulate targeted surveillance - whereby the state MAY be able to intercept the communications of a specific person or group of people, if they are being investigated for the most serious crimes, and if a judge has looked at the case and signed off on it.” - Murray Hunter
If this is how it is being done in South Africa with all it’s supposed advanced data protection and privacy laws, what of other African countries that are yet to draft or enact such laws?
I mention other African countries because when covering and reading all the African technology news and you start asking yourself why, for example, a company such as Truecaller would go and setup its headquarters in Kenya, a company which has half the marke size (for Truecaller) compared to South Africa? (Truecaller because their app is one of the most invasive as far as privacy is concerned)
The top 20 countries affected by spam calls in 2017. Source: Truecaller
The answer, I got the feeling, is possibly (not conclusively), is the difference in data protection and privacy laws in Kenya and South Africa. Kenya is yet to enact them while South Africa has them, with the only issue being their enforcement.
So, despite feeling a bit guilty that I am emphasizing the same topic covered in yesterday’s newsletter, I find comfort in that it cannot be emphasized enough and that at least, in South Africa, we can take to the courts to fight cases where our data has been abused. Compared to Kenya, where you can be charged with computer crimes for reporting a telecommunications data leak (more on this tomorrow after a very long discussion with the man suing Safaricom in Kenya for leaking his data).
Murray Hunter shares more details on South Africa's mass surveillance
Facebook used contractors to transcribe users' audio messages
Cyberattacks are potentially more dangerous than nuclear threats
Did you enjoy this issue?
If you don't want these updates anymore, please unsubscribe here
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here
Powered by Revue