Kenya’s government wants to tap its citizens’ mobile phones

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The Kenyan government has ordered mobile phone companies in the country to allow it to tap their computers – and the conversations, texts and mobile money transactions of citizens.

According to the Nation, which says it has obtained a letter sent to one of the operators by the Communications Authority of Kenya, the government will be able to tap phones using Safaricom, Aitel and Orange Telkom as of Tuesday.

 

Government defends move

Despite the obvious privacy concerns, Kenya’s government insists the move is not about snooping on people’s private conversations. Instead, it says the system is necessary in order to crack down on the use of counterfeit phones. While the Information Ministry has since hit out at mobile operators for leaking “private information” to the media.

The government also says it will not suspend the controversial system, regardless of the backlash it has faced since the leak came out on Friday. Aside from criticising the violation of privacy, critics want to know why the government has kept people in the dark over such a significant move.

 

Suspicions ahead of elections

Some critics even speculate the move could be part of the government’s preparations ahead of national elections in six months’ time. Kenyan regulators have already said they will be monitoring social media for “hate speech” which it blames for causing violence after elections in 2007.

Numerous Twitter users speculate under the hashtag #MobilePrivacyIsMyRight suggest the move could be used to shut down mobile networks after the election to make organising protests more difficult.

As things stand, the Kenya government can already monitor its citizens’ phones, but it needs clearance from the courts. This move would make it possible for the government to monitor mobile phones at will.

 

Featured image: By Omaranabulsi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25806380

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.