Tag: Nigeria

What amount of information does Facebook actually hold about me? – Here is what I found and how….

Facebook

In light of the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, where a political consultancy in London has been accused of harvesting and applying Facebook users data inappropriately to shape political campaigns in the United States, I decided to find out exactly how much information Facebook holds about me.

I downloaded this via a single click in the settings section of my Facebook account. Find out how in the last paragraph of this article.

In the Photos and Videos sections, I was pleasantly surprised to see photos and videos that I had completely forgotten about. In the Messages section, I was able to view conversations with friends from 11 years ago when I joined Facebook! Some of these conversations took me right back to what my life was like at those points in time. The Timeline section shows all the comments I’ve ever posted and I was able to go back to my first post on the platform, including the date and time it was posted!

I was also able to see my ad history, not only ads I have clicked on Facebook but also on Instagram! Now, I have the Instagram app on my phone and I know the company was acquired by Facebook in 2012, but I didn’t realise that data from my activity on Instagram is being flowed directly into the Facebook app. I was able to see advertisers with my contact info as well.

In the Security section, I was able to view all devices I have used to log in to Facebook and the IP addresses of these devices including date and time stamps.

All these were interesting to me until I came across the Contact Info section where I was able to see that Facebook holds contact information from my mobile phone including people not even on my Facebook friends list! 70% of my phone contact list are known to Facebook, including the contact info for the Indian Takeaway I frequent on days I feel a bit peckish!

From what I was able to gather from a quick Google search, the Facebook app on your phone apparently has access to your phone contacts and you gave this permission away when you downloaded the app. I think you can manage this though and restrict this access by going into your settings.

The good thing about downloading this data is that you are able to see the evidence of the power of Facebook. Every Like, every comment, every photo you’ve posted, adverts you have clicked on and places you’ve been are being meticulously chronicled in great detail and made accessible to you and I am sure, the government and other authorities as well (on demand probably). How much of this data is accessible to corporate interests and political parties is less known. Cambridge Analytica’s parent company (prior to 2014), then known as SCL Elections, has been accused of interfering in the 2007 general elections in Nigeria where it is alleged that the company organised rallies in Nigeria to weaken support for the opposition. There are also allegations of political interference by the same company in Latvia and Trinidad and Tobago elections in 2006 and 2010 respectively.

If you feel there is anything on there you would be uncomfortable being made public (e.g. those old photos you were tagged in or the ones you posted, or even opinions you expressed a long time ago that you no longer hold), it is the time to clean up and check how much consent you are giving apps to access your personal data, in your settings.

The more disturbing aspect is how secure is this data? The recent Cambridge Analytica scandal shows it is not as secure as we would like it to be. I know a lot of people say if you have nothing to hide, then you shouldn’t worry. But I think this is a naive position as you should be concerned about how much information about you is available to a private company who makes billions of dollars trading in that very information. Imagine giving the keys to your house to a private insurance company for example, and saying you have nothing to hide! That would be unthinkable. Facebook is no longer a passive fun app where we post smileys to far-flung friends, it is a very powerful machine hoovering up and digesting every aspect of our lives and making a huge profit from it.

Information about you could be used for positive as well as negative or criminal purposes, protecting it is important. In an age of identity theft, impersonations and blackmail, you ignore this at your peril.

If Facebook holds this much information about us, I wonder what data Google and Apple keep about us all and what they do with it or ‘can’ do with it!

To view your own Facebook data (see screenshots below), go to your settings in your Facebook app (desktop or mobile) and in the General account settings tab, click ‘Download a copy of your Facebook data’. It will take about 10-15 minutes and an email will be sent to you with a link to the downloaded data.

‘Fantastically corrupt’ Nigeria – A personal experience (Part 2)

Nigeria-picture

Getting into Lagos and out of the airport was a relief. My dad was out there with a pick up car and we drove to a hotel in town to sleep over for the night. The hotel brought some food for us in the room after we had arranged the fees and everything else. I had a very light sleep that night in anticipation of seeing the rest of my family in Ibadan (2hrs away from Lagos and the second largest city in Nigeria). It was incredibly hot as well. I was sweating all the time

We set out mid morning the following day for Ibadan and we travelled on the infamous Lagos-Ibadan expressway (local name for the dual-carriage way). I was shocked at the size and number of potholes on this road. It has always been a notorious road for car accidents and armed robbery, but it is the only direct link from Lagos to Ibadan. There were no road markings and cars swerved in out out of their lanes avoiding potholes, some so deep they would damage your car seriously if you ran into them. I held my breath as the driver switched lanes every 2 minutes while doing 100km/hr. There were big trucks and petrol tankers also swerving around, so it was all a potentially dangerous situation. I asked him why the road is so bad, that when I was in Nigeria, I couldn’t remember it like it is now. He said the government had awarded the contract but due to high-level corruption, the project never took off properly and there had been many starts and stops. Currently he said, they are working on it and they are nearly half way and we would soon get to where the work is going on. We did, and to be fair, some some serious work was going on on this road, though slow, but at least, after so many years of nothing, it is nice to see it is being fixed and made safer. I thought to myself I won’t be taking that road again until I am off to the airport for my return, as it looked just too risky. One thing I noticed though was that there weren’t many police checkpoints anymore compared to many years ago when I lived there, we only encountered one checkpoint and they just waved us on.

I stayed in a hotel in Ibadan for the nights and spent most of my day time hours at home with my family. The weather was too hot and I needed a place with constant power supply and air-conditioning to be able to unwind and sleep at night. The hotel provided this.

The hotel staff were generally helpful and nice, but they could spot that I had been out of the country for quite a while, because of the sort of questions I asked, like how do you load phone credit, where can I get internet connection and so on. That said, many of the staff waited for something in return whenever they helped me out with anything. I could see in their body language and sometimes they will ask me directly. I did what I could and sometimes I just said thank you and walked away. But overall I had a pleasant stay.

My time had now come to leave after two weeks of a memorable time with my family. I set out on the Ibadan-Lagos road again and off to the airport. At this point, there was a biting scarcity of fuel and there were many queues on the road causing traffic jams all the way to Lagos. I got to the airport quite early due to the unpredictable nature of events in Nigeria, I couldn’t bear to miss my flight.

When check-in time started, I was ready. The lady at passport control looked at my documents and quickly waved me on to Departures. I went through a few more checks but everything was smooth until I got to security where you were scanned along with your hand luggage. The lady checking my stuff, suddenly looked and whispered to me, ‘anything for us sir?’ I said sorry, what do you mean, she said it again and added ‘nothing is too small’. I was shocked, this was security at the main international airport in Nigeria asking me for money! I pretended I didn’t really understand what she meant and in frustration just waved me on after checking my luggage. I couldn’t believe what I just heard. I thought to myself, I know these guys are paid very low, but this is security at stake here. I wondered what someone with sinister intentions might do knowing all the security guys would gladly take money. Scary thought.

As I walked through security, glad I left the uncomfortable situation behind, I suddenly heard a shout from a corner with 3 or 4 men in immigration uniforms waving me over. I thought why are they calling me. I went over to these guys and one of them said to me ‘where are you off to tonight sir’, I said London. He looked at my boarding pass and stared uncomfortably for a while and then said ‘have a safe journey sir’. I thought to myself, did he want money as well? I was a bit concerned at this point thinking why are they all expecting something from me. I am just a regular traveller.

I got to the waiting room where we would sit and wait for boarding the plane. We were subjected to another search here. A man searched my person and a lady searched my bag. As the lady was going through my hand luggage, I heard again in a quiet voice, ‘anything for us tonight sir’, I replied ‘sorry, don’t have any spare cash or anything as I am broke right now’, She giggled and said ‘okay, have a nice journey sir’.

I went to my seat and just slumped in the chair tired of it all. Why on earth are airport officials asking travellers for money, almost openly? The announcement came on that our plane was ready and we boarded ready to leave Nigeria behind with mixed feelings.

Low-level corruption is widespread in Nigeria and people don’t take it seriously, but it is the individuals perpetrating this that will go on to commit higher level crimes when given some power. Imagine the security lady being promoted to become a supervisor, or a manager of a team at the airport, what sort of leadership will she offer? I try not to think about it.

Nigerians shouldn’t deny the reality of corruption in the country. Lets all hope the current regime’s fight against it bears some fruit.

 

 

‘Fantastically Corrupt’ Nigeria – A personal experience (Part 1)

Nigeria-picture

People have condemned David Cameron’s unguided utterances last week where he referred to Nigeria and Afghanistan as ‘fantastically corrupt’ countries. I condemn him too as I don’t think such careless talk does any favours to both the speaker of it nor the receiver(s) of it. It achieves nothing but fractured diplomatic relations.

However, as a Nigerian, I completely relate to what David Cameron said. I grew up in Nigeria and it is true corruption has become a way of life for many years in the country. Corruption is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “Dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery”. From my translation of this definition, ‘those in power’ does not only refer to politicians but everyone who provides a service for which you rely on. For example your electricity company, water company, the local community leader and even the receptionists.

I made a brief visit to Nigeria in 2015 after 8 years of living in the UK. Not much has changed in terms of infrastructure and development. The roads are still bad (in fact has got worse in many places), there is still intermittent power supply, there are still fuel shortages and generally life is still very hard for the average man on the street. The noise, the colour, the dust, the garbage on the streets, all still the same.

I landed at Muritala Muhammed International airport to a hot, rancid air with the arrival lounges looking very bland in contrast to other international airports I’ve been. There was water from the air conditioners running across the floors and it all felt a little bit grotty. Though I felt it unfair to compare Nigeria’s main international airport to Heathrow in London or Schipol in Amsterdam, after all it is a developing country trying its best everyday to make things better in very difficult circumstances. I progressed with my journey towards passport control trying not to be judgemental. I should be glad I landed safely and excited to see my family. I heard one of the passengers with whom I exited the plane, walking behind me, chuckle and whisper, ‘welcome to Nigeria’.

The first check point was manned by a loud talking gentleman checking our landing cards. One of the arriving passengers who was not Nigerian was trying to communicate with the man on the desk in a foreign language (sounded Lebanese). The man on the desk simply shouted at him to speak English or he will spend a long time in the queue. I thought to myself again ‘welcome to Nigeria’ where magic happens. If this ‘Lebanese’ man was able to speak English, wouldn’t he have done so in the first place I thought, or maybe I’m wrong. I made it past this desk and into passport control and met a long line of people waiting for their passports to be checked. I quickly took my spot and waited for my turn. It was around 9pm by this time, about 30minutes after I exited the plane. I kept looking at the decor in this part of the airport and all looked very old fashioned and outdated. I thought it could be worse and I should not be judgmental. It was very hot in there though. I looked round for anything (digital) that could give a hint of the outside temperature, couldn’t find any, but never mind, that was the least of my worries.

As we all waited in the queue I suddenly heard a commotion of some sorts and quickly looked to see what was going on. Two women were making their way past everyone on the queue clutching shopping bags from duty free shops in London and everyone was wondering where they were going. You are right they were making their way to the top of the queue, ignoring shouts from people waiting not do so. They shuffled past me as well and the look on their faces was indifference as if ‘what are you going to do, stop me?’. They got to the top of the line, right in front of the desks. The airport staff did not stop these women, rather they appealed to the people waiting in line to not create more problem by creating a scene. The women were attended to after being questioned by one of the staff. I don’t know what they discussed, but they must have been allowed to jump the queue for some reason. I thought to myself again, don’t be judgemental, maybe one of them is ill and can’t queue or they have some serious medical condition.

I finally made it past passport control after about 30 minutes of standing in line. Then we made our way to the baggage section to pick up our bags. I thought I am nearly done now, just pick up my bags and get out into Lagos! Home of the brave! How wrong was I. I spent nearly 2 hours waiting for my bags, in fact I thought at some point they were lost and I started to panic. In the meantime I looked around for a baggage trolley (as you would in any airport) to load my bags on if or when they eventually came out, but couldn’t find any in sight. Eventually, I saw my bags coming down the escalator and was pleased. As I pulled them off the escalator and onto the floor, a young man approached me and said do you need a baggage trolley, I looked up and said excitedly, yes please! He said wait here. He went off and got me a trolley and I wondered where that had suddenly appeared from. I had looked everywhere before then and didn’t find one. Anyway it wasn’t the time to be Sherlock Holmes, I quickly thanked him and he said he would help me to load my bags as well. I told him he didn’t have to, but he did and loaded by 3 heavy bags onto the carrier for me. I thanked him profusely and thought to myself Nigerians are really nice people aren’t they. I noticed though, as I thanked this man, he wasn’t that chuffed, he just had a stern look. And then he broke his silence, he said ‘what have you brought for us from London’. I said, ‘ah…sorry i don’t have anything on me at the moment, just a couple of pound coins’ left over from having coffee at Heathrow. He replied ‘that would do’. To my shock, I quickly ransacked my pockets and brought out a handful of British coins totalling about £3.00 (about N750 or N800 in Nigerian money), probably enough for a meal in Nigeria.He thanked me and moved on very quickly lending a hand to another passenger and having a chat with them too. At this point I was tired and can’t wait to get out of the airport. Moved my baggage trolley out of the front door into the hot Lagos air, almost hotter than when I was inside the airport. ‘Welcome to Nigeria’ said a big banner on one of the metal rails outside.

Corruption in Nigeria is not just in the high places, it is present in everyday life and perpetrated by everyday people. My next article (Part 2) will tell you of the experiences I had of these low-level everyday corruption in Nigeria during my short stay there in 2015. But overall, it is a country I admire for its tenacity and ability to thrive in very difficult circumstances. Nigerians endure everyday struggles that will dwarf any hardship you can refer to in western societies.