Reports by Thisday newspapers suggest that Nigeria has requested for user information from internet giants like Google and Facebook.
The revelation was made in a report titled, “The Growing Trend of African Government’s Requests for User Information and Content Removal from Internet and Telecoms Companies,” which was released last month by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) established under the Catalysing Access to Information and Communications Technologies in Africa (CATIA) initiatives funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).
According to the report, requests for subscribers’ data, content preservation, and content removal were made by African governments.
Facebook listed Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt and Sudan as the African countries that made the highest requests.
However, the report noted: “It is worth noting that the number of requests to Facebook by African governments is small when compared to the United States of America which made nearly 50,000 user information requests relating to over 80,000 user accounts and 69,437 preservation requests in 2016.
Google also reported: “Since 2013, Google has received user information requests from 10 African countries – Algeria, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, The Seychelles and South Africa.
“Over three years, Kenya made the highest number of user information requests to Google – 21 relating to 32 user accounts – followed by South Africa and Nigeria.
“Aside from eight requests made by the Kenya government during the second half of 2013 relating to 11 user accounts, of which Google complied with 63 per cent, all the other requests were rejected.
“Nigeria is the only government in Africa to have made a user information request to Google and it was fully complied with. The emergency disclosure request was made by the Nigerian authorities in the second half of 2016 and it related to five user accounts.
“Google had rejected all of Nigeria’s seven previous requests,”
The report added: “In its 2016 Annual Sustainability Report, MTN reaffirmed its support for human rights including access to information, freedom of expression, privacy and security of its users’ communications and information.
“However, the telecommunications company, one of the largest service providers in Africa with a presence in 19 countries, provides no information about how it handles requests from governments and private parties for user information or surveillance support.
“Similarly, MTN provides little information about its processes for handling such requests.
“The South Africa based company also does not disclose any data about the number of requests it receives or complies with, which places it a rank lower than the likes of Millicom, Vodafone and Orange when it comes to transparency about its policies relating to users’ freedom of expression and privacy.”
There had been growing fears about the federal governments intent to monitor the social media after the Nigerian Army recanted a statement it made to that effect. This new report confirms that government is actively monitoring social discourse.