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 has 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 into 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 widespread indiscriminate bulk interception of communications that happened, and is probably the largest ever of its kind in Africa, and probably still happening.
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 set up its headquarters in Kenya, a company which has half the market size (for Truecaller) compared to South Africa? (Truecaller because their app is one of the most invasive as far as privacy is concerned).
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).
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