Kenyan Government Spying on Citizens Reveals Privacy International

A new investigation published by Privacy International about state surveillance in Kenya, shines a light on the techniques, tools and culture of Kenyan police and intelligence agencies’ surveillance capabilities.

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The report has specifically details the routine unregulated intelligence sharing between government agencies.

The report could implicate telecommunication companies who may be sharing private data with government agencies without a court order.

Kenya has 3 major telecommunication companies that include Safaricom, Airtel and Orange. Commenting on the report, Dr Gus Hosein, Executive Director of Privacy International said:

“Communications surveillance in Kenya is conducted outside any effective regulatory oversight. The National Intelligence Service (NIS) in particular is operating outside of any meaningful constraints on its far-reaching surveillance powers.

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Some of the key Revelations include:

  • Communications surveillance is being carried out by Kenyan state actors, essentially without oversight, outside of the procedures required by Kenyan laws.
  • Intelligence gained by intercepting phone communications, primarily by the National Intelligence Service (NIS)
  • Despite constitutional and other privacy protections, telecommunications operators regularly hand over customer data to both intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Sources who spoke with PI feel that they cannot decline agencies’ requests.
  • The NIS appears to have direct access to communication networks across Kenya. Direct access means an actor has backdoor access the phone communications that flow through service providers. In this case, it is unlikely that the network operators had knowledge of the state’s interception.
  • NIS officers use various techniques to access both call content and call data records, including using mobile interception devices. Further methods are documented in the report.
  • Law enforcement agents are present within telecommunications operators’ facilities with the providers’ knowledge. NIS are also informally present in the telecommunication operators’ facilities, apparently undercover, according to current and former telecommunications, Communications Authority and NIS staff interviewed by Privacy International. This investigation details both the ‘above the board’ and informal practices. Agency and company responses to requests for comment by Privacy International are included in the report.
  • In advance of the August 2017 Presidential elections, the Communications Authority has launched several disturbing initiatives, including a project to monitor social media content, whose potential capacities are discussed in this report.

Safaricom Chief Executive Bob Collymore, told PI in a letter that Safaricom only provides information as required by courts and upon receipt of relevant court orders.

“We believe that customers have fundamental right to privacy… ensuring that right is respected is one of our highest priorities,” the Business Daily, a member of the Nation Media Group stable, reports Mr Collymore as saying.

You can access the full report by Privacy International here: https://privacyinternational.org/node/1367