African Surveillance Law Reports
21st October 2021

The African Digital Rights Network has produced the first comparative analysis of how privacy rights are protected in surveillance law across six African countries: Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Sudan. 

The Cambridge Analytica scandal, Snowden revelations on state surveillance and Pegasus spyware story have raised awareness about the increasingly pervasive surveillance of citizens by governments and corporations. Most of this attention has focused on the global North. This research reviews what protections are in place in African law to protect citizens against violations of their privacy rights.

You can download the full report here

The reports show that:

Privacy Rights of African citizens are guaranteed in national constitutions, international human rights conventions, and domestic laws. 

Mass surveillance violates those rights but governments are awarding themselves bulk surveillance powers and purchasing surveillance technologies that threaten those rights. States are investing heavily in artificial intelligence internet surveillance, mobile phone spyware, facial recognition CCTV and biometric ID. 

Legislation can balance the need for narrowly focused surveillance of the most serious criminals with safeguards to protect the rights of citizens. 

The reports provide a clear way forward:

Revise Laws. Fixing the law is simple where there is political will. The principles are clear and laid out in our report . Template legislation exists developed by the United Nations that provides legal definition of privacy safeguards and oversight mechanisms. 

End Impunity. We found no evidence of any state actor being sacked or jailed when evidence of illegal surveillance surfaces, as it does frequently. Legislation should define suitable punishments for illegal surveillance.

Build Capacity. Authors of the country reports identified a need to raise public awareness about privacy rights and surveillance practices and to build the capacity to monitor and hold the state accountable.

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