What Cambridge Analytica means for Africans: Keep your personal data off the internet- until you are getting paid for it

adebayoalonge argues that Africans need to be more aware about how they generate data online and the ways it is being used against them often for free. He asks for people to demand rights to their data.


 “It’s insane. The company i.e. Cambridge Analytica has created psychological profiles of 230 million Americans. And now they want to work with the Pentagon? It’s like Nixon on steroids.”

Christopher Wylie, Cambridge Analytica WhistleBlower

Image result for christopher wylie

Image Source: Margarita Noriega

As one of the first Africans to use the internet back in 1998, I have seen the internet progress from frontier-like and open one to one chat rooms to consolidated complex data mining social media platforms that sell human data and lives for millions of dollars to politicians and corporations. Unfortunately human users have continued to trust the internet like we did in its early days  forgetting that these platforms are no longer the simple unassuming chat rooms of yesteryears but are now money machines whose goal is to make money by selling all aspects of your private life.

Cambridge Analytica is that English political campaign company that aims to help politicians win elections. They and related companies have worked in Nigeria and Kenya with ruling parties. If they went to such questionable extent to steal Facebook data from Americans to help Trump win, think of what they have done in Africa where there is limited to no data governance and rights.

See the links here for more insights-

  1. In 2014, Nigeria’s ruling APC hired AKPD to lead an information campaign that helped discredit the ruling and incumbent PDP President and led to a landslide win in the 2015 general elections – https://www.vanguardngr.com/2014/02/2015-elections-apc-hires-foreign-consultant/
  2. In 2009, Nigeria’s then ruling PDP hired Cambridge Analytica  to lead a disinformation campaign at preventing supporters of opposition parties from turning up at the polls. The PDP won that election- https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-20/cambridge-analytica-has-long-history-of-dubious-election-tricks
  3. In  2017, the ruling President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta won his reelection bid by hiring Cambridge Analytica to stoke ethnic tensions and to position him to the youth as a digital president
  4. In 2014, the ruling ANC of South Africa won the general election through the work of the now bankrupt Bell Pottinger. Bell worked to promote racial disunity and position the ANC as the defender of the black majority
  5. Ethiopia has hired Cyberbit an Israeli company in its ongoing campaign against dissidents

How much of your data is out there for free? In what ways is it being used against you?

Our digital lives and the footprint we leave are a very close approximate of our actual lives and our beliefs. All of the data you generate and when you generate it is being used to build very detailed profiles of your personality, when you wake and sleep, what you hate and like- essentially is being used to understand your history, study your present and predict your future lives to high degrees of accuracy. Social media companies are mining your data, observing your life routines and your interactions with your networks to predict your actual behaviors using algorithms to near perfect accuracy. They can use this information or sell it so that your information and that of those like you is aggregated into a ‘weaponisable’ data trove that can be used to win political, business and in fact military wars. They can be weaponized to wage information campaigns and shift cultures to be more accepting of external cultural influences. Think how the USA has sold the US brand and related products through Hollywood and its music. Asymmetric information wars are so subtle and this is what makes them so powerful because we don’t know they have influenced our decisions. In Africa for instance within 40 years since the independence, the US and its culture has come to occupy a premier aspiration position vs the British and French even though these Europeans colonized the continent for over 50 years.

(Note that since World War II, all of warfare today is about information- if I know more about you and you know less about me, I will always win by getting you to act as I want).

As humans and especially Africans, we all need to begin to demand to own our data and companies need our consent and need to pay for it before they use it. We should not continue to subsidize the massive valuations of the FAG- Facebook, Amazon, Google.

For me, I have stopped all private data generation online and if I need to generate any content I do so through my own platform.

The data warfare going on for the last 20 years has become mainstream- people are waking up to these raging wars and we all need to begin to demand to own and protect our data.

My recommendations are-

  1. Reduce your data generation on social media
  2. Seek active means to control your data
  3. If you cannot do the above, then eliminate your digital presence until we all have better means to protect ourselves.

The data wars have begun, protect yourself!

Note:

Watch this video for more insights- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HQC01qrxVc

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