Globally, Facebook continues to dominate as the most used social media platform with 2.27 billion active accounts. This is followed by YouTube (1.9 billion), WhatsApp (1.5 billion) and Facebook’s Messenger (1.3 billion). A report found out that social media user information requests from African governments have accelerated between 2013 and 2016.
Egypt was one of the top four African nations who have requested user data from Facebook, alongside Nigeria, Tunisia, and Botswana. Though Egypt was also among the top five African countries requesting data from Google.
While the companies’ reports are vital to understanding censorship and surveillance by governments, CIPESA cautions that they can’t be used as a sole measure of the extent of surveillance and censorship of content by government. But they do show the scale of requests from individual governments for subscriber data and content removal.
A report by Konbini states that South Africa, Nigeria, Sudan, Kenya, and Egypt have all consistently requested user information from Google, Facebook, and Twitter; and from Africa-based mobile operators such as MTN and Orange.
African snowflakes governments are struggling to accept the voice that social media has granted its citizens, instead choosing to regard the criticism and vocalness as dissent. While we understand asking for user data in connection to criminal investigations and emergencies, many of the data requests show something else: the need for African governments top exert complete control and censorship over their citizens.
On a related note, Uber is reportedly pulling a feature from its app that allows the company to track riders for up to five minutes after ending the trip, the company’s chief security officer Joe Sullivan tells Reuters.
While the newswire speculates that the move comes as part of the company’s strategy to reshape its tattered reputation which led to the downfall of CEO Travis Kalanick, Sullivan insists that the move is just part of his team’s work to beef up customer security. There had been allegations that Uber’s “God View” was used to track a journalist who has been critical to the company. The move to tighten customer privacy comes amid allegations that Egypt has been asking Uber and its biggest local rival Careem to provide it with user data.
Sharing of this data may be mandatory for the company, as the New York Times had reported that the new Ride Hailing Apps Act would oblige these companies to provide the government with user data.