Governments from time to time request for user data from companies for one reason or another. The Kenyan Government is no different. From our research of publicly available data we have established that the government made 40 account information requests to Twitter, Facebook and Google since 2012. It received the data requested in some instances.
The government also made content 5 removal requests from Twitter and Facebook out of which 1 was successful. It is unclear why the government wanted the data and which accounts were affected.
It is not clear which other companies in Kenya have been requested by the government to forward user data. For instance, it is most likely that Safaricom has provided customer data to the government. The Kenyan telco doesn’t share statistics of the instances it has shared data and Vodafone, a major shareholder in Safaricom, also couldn’t share the statistics because according to them:
“The legal position is unclear regarding whether or not it would be lawful for Safaricom (Vodafone’s local associate operator) or Vodafone to disclose statistics related to agency and authority communications data demands. Section 3 of the Official Secrets Act provides certain instances where publication or disclosure of information is deemed an offence. The broad language of this Act includes publication of data collected by the security agency in Kenya. In addition, Section 37 of the National Intelligence Service Act (Act No. 28 of 2012) (“NIS Act”) limits a person’s constitutional right of access to information where such information is classified. When read with the Official Secrets Act (Cap. 187 Laws of Kenya), the government can prevent the publication of such data if such publication will be prejudicial to safety and the interest of the Republic of Kenya. It is therefore under this umbrella (prejudice to national security) that the government can prevent the publication of various agency and authority demands.”
Here is a breakdown of the requests Facebook, Twitter and Google have received from the Kenyan government.
According to Facebook they only honour information requests from governments that relate to criminal cases.
On Facebook, the Kenyan government has requested for data 7 times, 2 between June 2014 and December 2014 and 5 between January 2015 and June 2015. Information from 3 user accounts was requested in 2014 but no information was provided by Facebook. In 2015, information from 6 user accounts was requested and Facebook only provided information for 1 request.
Governments can obtain information from Twitter through emergency disclosure requests, Twitter account information requests and preservation requests. The last two require a court order. Governments can also make content removal requests for potentially illegal content that violates local laws.
Kenya has made 3 emergency disclosure requests to Twitter. One between July-December 2014, another between January-June 2015 and the last one was between January-June 2016. It was only in the last instance that information was provided.
In addition, Kenya has made 2 removal requests to Twitter. One in the July-December 2014 period and another in the July-December 2015 period. None of them were successful.
Google can provide information to governments through legal requests and emergency disclosure requests. They can also remove content from their services if served with a court order.
Kenya has made 30 requests legal and emergency disclosure requests for user information. It was only in the July-December 2013 period that they were successful.
The government has also made 3 removal requests. One in the July-December 2012 period, another between January-June 2015 and the last between July-December 2015. The January-June 2015 one was successful and this is what transpired according to Google “We received a court order on behalf of a Kenyan Internet solutions firm to delist from Google Search an allegedly defamatory article written by a notable social media activist and posted to his website. We delisted the content on google.co.ke pursuant to the court order.”