Apple, Inc. today released its Report on Government Information Requests. A quick scan shows most of the countries that requested user data were Western, with USA requesting more than just a truckload of personal data. Missing from the list are any countries from continental Africa.
Like many companies, Apple receives requests from law enforcement agencies to provide customer information. As we have explained, any government agency demanding customer content from Apple must get a court order.¹ When we receive such a demand, our legal team carefully reviews the order. If there is any question about the legitimacy or scope of the court order, we challenge it. Only when we are satisfied that the court order is valid and appropriate do we deliver the narrowest possible set of information responsive to the request.
There are two ways you could interpret this.
- Digital surveillance isn’t yet sophisticated on the continent
- Apple products are [not yet] in wide use on the continent.
The answer, I think, it 1 & 2. Only 15% of the continent is connected to the internet. There may be 700 million mobile devices on the continent, but few of them are smart devices. Even fewer are Apple devices. A little birdie shared some hard data about the devices that were running on MTN Uganda’s network in Q1’13. There were less than 10,000 Apple devices connected to the network’s 3G spectrum. Even if each country only had 10,000 Apple devices, that’s only 540,000 or .0008% of all mobile devices on the continent.
Various Ministries of information or ICT prefer wholesale control or blocking of access to the web, rather than try to sleuth for misbehaving individuals. See Ethiopia and Morocco’s draconian approach and Uganda’s recent attempt to squelch dissent by trying to block Twitter and Facebook.
However, as connected technologies become more and more a part of African life, and efforts like SIM registration become the new normal, governments will have plenty of data to collect on their citizens.