Dear Internet, I Love You But We Need to Talk…

Over the past few weeks, the world has boiled over with the revelations of how Facebook allowed its vulnerabilities to be exploited by Cambridge Analytica (CA) in using data of its users in political campaigns.

For most of the global North, these conversations have carried on to a point leading to the Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg appearing before a senate committee hearing and two CEOs of CA finding their way in an out the position due to the complexities of the outcome of the events.

The news that Cambridge Analytica harvested 50 million Facebook profiles is a major data breach . The point in fact is without the consent or knowledge of the Facebook users. The wrongdoings of FB and CA are widespread in the Global North with a lot of users expressing their concerns while many celebrities including Elon Musk opting to delete their and companies’ facebook pages.

In the Global South, these revelations have led to the call for better data privacy and protection practices while some have gone as far as recommending that African countries adopt the European Union’s GDPR policies that will come into effect in May 2018.

Given these revelations, I seek to understand, if our personal data is really as valuable as we make it be, why are we so careless with how we share it, who we share it with and where we share it.

Considering the following statements:

“We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles and built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on…”

and that

“about 270,000 users agreed to have their data collected and used for academic research in exchange for a small payment, we conducted a survey to understand more about the effect of sharing personal information on social media.

Below is an image of the data protection landscape in Africa, where only 17 countries have defined data protection legislation.

Sample size: 500

Location: Kenya

Project platform: poll.co.ke

Here are the top 5 insights about Kenya, Facebook Use and Sharing of Personal Information.

#1. Third party applications and many other applications access our personal data because we share it with them. What we don’t know is how do they use it? When asked whether they were aware that Facebook authorized the use of their data by third party applications, our respondents had something to say…

#2. Ever wondered why those that use FB are all stuck with it? While some use the service to store old pictures, well, it’s mostly to stay in touch with friends and family.

#3. After the recent revelation that CA improperly accessed Facebook users’ personal information, Kenyans were prompt to act by reducing interaction with Facebook, changing user settings while others continued with normal operation of FB, unfazed.

“Less than a second later, a Facebook app had harvested not only Mr. Deason’s profile data, but also data from the profiles of 205 of his Facebook friends. Their names, birth dates and location data, as well as lists of every Facebook page they had ever liked, were downloaded — without their knowledge or express consent — before Mr. Deason could even begin reading the first survey question.” reported The New York Times.

#4. It is also interesting to see how helpless social media users are, especially since they do not trust the services but still continue to use them. Also, a key lesson to getting users to trust your services? Have them read the terms and conditions of the services.

#5. The respondents strongly felt that Instagram, Facebook and OLX are the applications that mostly misused their information. Mobile lending apps like Branch and Tala also had a significant showing while betting apps were also accused of misusing customer data.

In summary, loads of data and personal information has been collected and used to influence our decisions, behaviors and perceptions of others. In 2013 and 2017 campaigns of Kenyans’ Presidential elections: The personal data collected was used inappropriately. We face limited data protection in Africa and Facebook sees 123 million users across sub-Saharan Africa.

The GDPR specifies that users need to sign different opt in consents for custodians of their data to use the data especially for marketing etc. Just because a user gave you access to their mobile phone number to allow you to complete a service does not grant you the permission to send them a marketing campaign or a new product.

So, which way, Kenya?

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What Mozilla is thinking, building and doing about internet health.

Linet Kwamboka

Written by

CEO - DataScience LTD, The Information Company.

Read, Write, Participate

What Mozilla is thinking, building and doing about internet health.