Exposing Baba Jukwa: Our rights to privacy
On several occasions, state media namely the herald and Sunday mail have published ‘leaked’ emails and information exchanges by prominent politicians and socialites in Zimbabwe. Several names like Eddie cross, Tendai Biti, Elizabeth Macheka and Obert Gutu have been victims of the leaks. Questions arise as to who leaks this information? How do they do it and for what reasons?
We are aware of the US whistle-blower Edward Snowden, who leaked many NSA documents that show the US government, has been spying on citizens globally. It revealed the agency spied even on allies like German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It is not the US government alone that spies on citizens. Recently there were reports that Ethiopian government was acquiring spy technology (to spy on citizens).
We have two possibilities: ether the state media fabricates these stories (propagandist machinations) or the information is true. If it is true, then the state media accessed the information from another state department. Whichever way it goes, the state knows who leaks the people’s information and how they do it.
Last week I attended a workshop that touched on digital security, which proved to be a revelation to the majority of us participants. As I was just digesting what I learnt from the workshop the media was awash with news that baba Jukwa had been caught. I have not much sympathy for Baba Jukwa especially now that he is no longer relevant as elections are over but what grabbed my attention is how they claim they caught him. They (whoever they are) are said to have successfully hacked into his/her email account. The news is spine chilling to someone who values his or her privacy. Those hackers purport that Baba Jukwa is Mxolisi Ncube a journalist with the Zimbabwean.
Mxolisi Ncube denies the accusations and says he only interviewed the faceless Facebook character. He admits to have corresponded with the Baba Jukwa. Whether Mxolisi is the real baba Jukwa or he is being set up, it is not much of an issue compared to the methods used to try and expose the Baba Jukwa. I wonder how many accounts of ordinary citizens have been hacked so far. How much of our private information has government accessed illegally?
In the movies, hacking seems a lot of fun and exciting but truth be told; it is an infringement on our basic human rights. Section 57 of the new constitution states that, “every person has the right to privacy…” and part (d) specifically provides for privacy of data or communication. What it means is that no one has the right to access your private and personal information without your consent. It is an infringement for one to browse through my phone (snooping) without my consent. It is our fundamental right yet someone is bragging that he/she successfully hacked Mxolisi Ncube’s emails. Their excuse for hacking is defending national security. We are the people. We are the nation. There is no way they can protect us by hacking into our accounts.
However, part of the blame lies squarely on us. Many of us are reckless with how we share our personal information online. As I learnt at the workshop, a few things will help us be more secure online.
- Always think twice before you accept any friend requests, open strange emails, or download those viral files on apps like WhatsApp. Some of it is carrying spyware.
- Have different passwords for your different accounts and only you must know them. A strong password must contain symbols and numerals.
- Think before you click on those pop-up ads. Many of them will lead you to unsecure sites where you are asked to type in your personal information.
- Never give personal information online. Many of the sites relay the information to hackers.
- Always log out from all your open accounts and delete history and cookies after you use a device that is not yours or that is available for the public. Hackers and/or other criminals can use this history can use to enter into your accounts.
So even if whether we are fans of baba Jukwa or not, the way he has been exposed must worry us. When ordinary citizen Mxolisi Ncube has his right to privacy infringed upon, we all must get vocal or the vices will not stop. After Mxolisi, it is you or I.