I recently, during the school holidays, for the umpteenth time, watched the movie, Annie, with my sons. There’s a part that caught my attention that I had not previously paid attention to.

The mobile phone company executive role played by Jamie Foxx nonchalantly tells Annie, I paraphrase:

“People are scared of their governments spying on them. They should be more scared of the telephone company.”
Over the past decade, we have witnessed a significant rise across the continent as far as undersea fiber cables are concerned. However, have you ever asked yourself what access the technicians have to the data and information passing through those cables?

Well, in South Africa’s case, you will need to be worried about both the state and the “phone company.” In 2017, thanks to a court case, it was revealed that South Africa’s State Security Agency (SSA) has been intercepting Internet traffic on undersea fiber cables.

(2017) A page from the document filed by Right2Know campaign and Privacy International against South African authorities.

The argument, as is always the case when censorship and surveillance is concerned on the continent, is that such bulk and indiscriminate interception of communications was related to “state security” and protecting South Africa from outside threats. However, as the SSA also admitted during the same court case through former Director General Arthur Fraser’s affidavit, they can’t and couldn’t really tell the source of the communications without human intervention.

Given that, it logically follows that the SSA was illegally and unconstitutionally conducting mass surveillance on South Africans and communications happening inside the country without the necessary permissions given. Despite their claims that this was for protection against foreign threats, as we’ve seen with the Edward Snowden revelations previously, with so much information collected and it requiring human intervention to analyze, who knows what it was used for?

Considering this and how Google, Facebook, Twitter, and more of the Big Tech companies keep abusing our privacy, perhaps it’s time you considered encrypting all your communications.

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