Facebook, Google, Others Confirm Nigeria’s Requests for User Information

  •  MTN not transparent on information provided

Tobi Soniyi

A new report has confirmed what many Nigerians have long suspected to be true: that the federal government is spying on its citizens through the social media and email accounts.

The report titled, “The Growing Trend of African Government’s Requests for User Information and Content Removal from Internet and Telecoms Companies,” 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).

The organisation analysed transparency reports released by telecommunications and social media companies.

The reports by these companies including Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Twitter and others showed that there has been a surge in African governments’ requests for user information.

According to the report, African governments’ requests are for subscribers’ data, content preservation, and content removal.
Facebook listed Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt and Sudan as the African countries that made the highest requests.
The social media giant said that the government of Nigeria had specified the highest number of user information on its user information requests with 113 accounts.

South Africa made 32 requests for user accounts, Egypt (31) and Sudan (24).
Facebook said that Nigeria also made requests for content in six user accounts to be preserved.
It said that Nigeria made requests for 96 users’ information during the second half of 2015, meaning that the requests were made after President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office on May 29, 2015.

The report stated: “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.

“Facebook’s compliance rate with the U.S.’ requests last year was over 80 per cent.”
Tech giant, Google, also declared that Nigeria in 2015 made requests to it.

Google launched the first transparency report in 2009, followed by Twitter in 2012, and Facebook and Yahoo in 2013.
The report stated: “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,” it explained.
Twitter, in its transparency declaration, stated that Nigeria made three emergency requests, of which two were complied with.

It stated that the first request was made in the second half of 2015 while the second was made in the second half of 2016.
Yahoo, however, did not list any request made to it by any African countries.

The report described MTN as not being transparent because it refused to provide details of requests made to it by governments of the 19 countries where it operates in Africa.

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.”

Recently, the Nigerian Army had said it was monitoring social media site as part of its surveillance programme. However, following a backlash, it recanted.

  • princegab

    The guilty are afraid. As long as the govs have the means, let them monitor, it’s their responsibility to keep us safe.
    Rebellion is innate.

  • Olatomiwa Martins

    There’s nothing wrong on that.
    It’s for social and national security purpose.
    Freedom of speech does not create room for “Hate Speech” …Hate Speech creates and causes social disorder or vices…
    We need to apply #Netiquette which most of us lack…
    Most time we abuse and curses our Leaders, forgetting that all leaders are appointed, chosen or allowed by God… Still saying or believing we love God…
    Show respect for all men [treat them honorably]. Love the brotherhood (the Christian fraternity of which Christ is the Head). Reverence God. Honor the emperor.
    1 Peter 2:17 AMPC
    Happy Weekend,New Month in advance & 57th Independent Anniversary!!!
    God Bless!!!

  • Rick Eson

    With all the issues in Nigeria currently eg Boko, looters, agitation and militancy, it perfectly OK for Nigeria Government to seek information. If you got nothing to hide why worry.

  • Mukhtari

    Shame on the government spying on people expressing their opinion. 2019 Will tell.

    • Filia Eze

      Buhari and his cohort have brought a big shame to Nigeria. Therefore, on Biafra we stand. No going back. No matter the threat

  • musa aliero

    Buhari and apc understand fully the power of social media, because they used it ride ride onto power. They have successfully blocked the mainstream media from publishing anything damaging to this administration or talking about its failures!!do so at your own peril. This is how they use this data to trace and arrest dissenting voices. Remember how El-rufai arrested and locked up a lot of journalists in kaduna simply because they criticized him. Now the new method of silencing dissent is what they call HATE SPEECH! They use this to arrest and intimidate any voice of criticism against this administration. good save us from this dictatorship

  • ed

    The attempt to silence the opposition is on going with President Buhari caliphate. The president is trying everything to impose Sharia rule on all Nigeria 🇳🇬.
    Anyone that disagree is the enemy of President Buhari’s Nigeria.

    • Fula

      Narrow minded comment. It did not occur to you that the requests could have been about monitoring terrorists on social media. Think of your country’s national security first before seeking to speak up for selfish politicians

      • William Norris

        Boko Haram terrorists maybe? The irony is that it was Buharia and his fellow Muslim partners in the APC that created Boko Haram terrorism !!!

        • Sam

          You are as dumb as it gets . Boko haram was a creation of the PDP. The late NSA Azazi confirmed this much.

          • Why would the PDP create Boko Haram when they were in office when they struck?

            Boko Haram was created by Yusurf Mohammed, however many of his members were used during election time to rig, the governor of the day armed them, and told them to go out and intimidate and snatch ballot boxes.

            They did, the politician won, and quickly discarded them, but they kept the weapons. It’s these weapons that they used to wage war against the state…initially. The same thing happened in the Niger Delta with the militants, Nigerian politicians are simply immoral.

          • William Norris

            Who made this statement?

            “An attack on Boko Haram is an attack on the North”

            That should give you a clue on who created Boko Haram.

          • William Norris

            Who made this statement?

            “An attack on Boko Haram is an attack on the North”

            That should give you a clue on who created Boko Haram

          • Babalola Olusanya
          • William Norris

            That website is run by a man named Mr. Brimah who CLAIMS to be

            1. A medical doctor but never went near any medical school
            2. A Nigerians but in fact has been proven to be either Ghanaian or Gambian

            He is also an Islamic extremist who believes that everyone everywhere MUST accept the supremacy of Sharia.

            I’d rather get my facts from somewhere else. Thanks.

          • Babalola Olusanya

            Always get your facts right and stop spreading lies and hate

          • Toby