The number of Kenyans on Facebook is substantial and is said to be in terms of millions for a country that has near 50 million citizens. As such, Facebook, which is used widely more than Twitter, has been a platform where people can express their opinions without fear, a perk of the freedom of expression that locals enjoy in current times, and could get many in problems a decade or two ago.
To this end, the Kenya government is reported to have demanded Facebook to hand over private information for select citizens. This development, which was reported by the social media giant in its latest transparency publication, is said to have been pursued up to five times in 2019 alone.
Facebook published the transparency report, which acknowledges that the corporation responds to a government’s request for data in accordance with applicable law and its terms of service. “Each we request we receive is carefully reviewed for legal sufficiency, and we may reject or require greater specificity on requests that appear overly broad or vague,” says Facebook.
Out of the five requests made by the Kenya government, four were emergency requests (that did not follow due proceedings). Only one request followed the proper legal channels.
Furthermore, the government requested the preservation of several accounts. Seven requests were made in 2017, a number that dropped to 5 in 2018. In 2019, no such requests for the preservation of user accounts have been made so far.
“We accept government requests to preserve account information pending receipt of formal legal process. When we receive a preservation request, we will preserve a temporary snapshot of the relevant account information but will not disclose any of the preserved records unless and until we receive formal and valid legal process,’ reads a statement from Facebook.
For context, Tanzania did not make such requests, although it made a request for the preservation of two accounts in 2018. Uganda requested information on one user and the preservation of another one Ugandan native.
This announcement comes at a time when the issue of data protection is being explored widely, following the approval of the Data Protection Bill, 2019, a few days ago. The law introduces stringent measures in the manner user data is processed by local and international organizations, but people are still expressing their skepticism as to whether the State will adhere to the stipulations of the law.
At the same time, Parliament is discussing a Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Bill, 2019 that plans, among other suggestions, to police how social media admins manage their profiles, and the registration of bloggers.