Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Our government is so ‘horny’ on snooping

And now it has been revealed that our ever so paranoid government did ask the administrators of popular social network, Facebook, to release private and confidential information on some Batswana Facebook users. How shocking! We really must thank Mark Zuckerberg and his team for throwing out our government’s request. As citizens who utilize Facebook and enjoy the benefits that come with its usage, we should be grateful that Zuckerberg has refused to snitch on us. He has refused to betray us. He has refused to satisfy our overzealous security intelligence operatives’ appetite for peeping into our private lives. I say, shame on that government official who signed off the request to Facebook. I also say, big up to Facebook for sticking out the middle finger at our government.

How shameful it is that the same government that cried out loud when Wikileaks exposed some of its confidential information has no shame in asking that the same betrayal be carried out on its citizens. Look, when Zuckerberg introduced Facebook some nine years ago, his sole aim was to create a social platform where people could interact with their acquaintances. He never set out to create Facebook to become a platform for espionage on citizens by governments. This request by our government is therefore an act of buffoonery on the part of busy bodies that make up the security intelligence organs of the state. I am trying to figure out how the moron who approached Facebook administrators worded, or justified his request, for him to be slapped with an egg on the face by Facebook administrators. For Facebook to find the request inappropriate goes to show how senseless and stupid the reasons advanced must have been, if at all our government ever bothered advance any.

African governments are a real disgrace. Botswana was not the only African state that requested for data from Facebook and ironically all African countries were turned down on their requests. I bet African governments were turned down because their reasons failed to explain the security threats posed by Facebook users. Their requests must have been based on witch-hunt. Their requests must have been targeted at those citizens who are perceived to be critically harsh towards their leaders without necessarily posing any national security threat to their respective countries. I will not be surprised to learn that our government bluntly asked Facebook to avail personal information on people like me only because we are unapologetically critical of the presidency. While my critique on Khama and his leadership style is of no threat to this country’s national security, our security operatives will still find it within their mandate to snoop on my private conversations. Look, some of us have no reason to talk about the leadership in hushed tones or through private messages on Facebook. We have no reason to gossip. What we think of our leaders is exactly what we share in public and as such I don’t understand what our security personnel hope to extract from our private conversations unless they want to go through our private conversations with our girlfriends.

Honestly, I don’t see how anyone in their proper state of mind would share any incriminating information through Facebook messaging. Rather, we use inbox messaging to share information that we would otherwise not want to share with the rest of users but not necessarily to mean we are planning a coup d’├®tat against our government. If I send my friend a message to say I don’t like President Khama and his administration, how does that pose a threat to national security? Already, our security operatives have equipment that allows them to listen in on our private telephone conversations and you get to wonder why they would go and reach out to an American company for assistance. I have my phone number which is registered with the service provider in Botswana and you would think it should be easy for our seemingly not so intelligent security intelligence officers to track down my conversations instead of trying to rely on a Facebook account which may after all be registered in a fake name. Just last month, Zuckerberg’s Facebook profile was hacked and this goes to show how easy it can be for anyone to temper with your account for malicious intent. One therefore wonders what our government would do if someone claims their account was hacked and that they are not responsible for messages extracted.

I have been to internet cafes where some users who are perhaps not technologically savvy, leave their accounts open without logging out and thus making them vulnerable to abuse by other people. It’s an embarrassment that not a single African government request for Facebook data was accepted by the social network while the United States had 79 percent of its requests accepted. Surely the American government must have furnished Facebook administrators with concrete and compelling reasons while African countries might have provided reasons that bordered on personal vengeance and trivialities. “He hates the president so please provide us with his private messages”, I have a feeling that is what African countries provided as reason for their requests. The situation is not helped by the secrecy that our security personnel operate under. While we are not asking for the names of the Facebook users, it would help us to appreciate their ambitions if our security organs could at least shed some light on what motivated their interest on those individuals’ accounts. Are they trying to trace missing persons through Facebook? Are they trying to find terrorists through Facebook? Are they trying to find out if we are sleeping with their girlfriends? Surely they can do better than soliciting private information from a social network. Thanks Mark, you are the man!

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