Connecting Africa is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.

Big Data

Cambridge Analytica Fallout Could Hit Facebook in Africa

Article Image
Facebook is still reeling after revelations that one-time app partner Cambridge Analytica gathered data on millions of Facebook customers in the US, without their knowledge, and sold this to Donald Trump's campaign during the 2016 presidential election. The social networking giant faces a potential backlash from consumers in the US and the UK, where Cambridge Analytica is based. It has also fallen foul of regulatory authorities on both sides of the Atlantic.

But what if authorities had little means of addressing such data-related abuses? That is the situation across much of Africa, according to a news story from Reuters, leaving millions of consumers vulnerable to data privacy abuses by the likes of Facebook and its app partners.

The Antisocial Network?
Facebook could face a backlash from consumers in Africa.
Facebook could face a backlash from consumers in Africa.

As the Cambridge Analytica scandal has shown, the existence of data-protection laws may not prevent abuse from happening. But legislation at least means authorities can hold the offenders accountable for their actions. The Wild West nature of many African markets, by contrast, could incite the worst kinds of behavior by online companies in the region.

The issue is pertinent because Cambridge Analytica is reported to have worked on the election campaign of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. It was also hired in 2015 to support the failed election campaign of Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria's former president, according to a report from the Guardian.

Privacy campaigners are reported to have argued that some African governments have little interest in passing data-protection laws because they have also used citizens' personal data improperly.

Any new laws could have immediate ramifications for Facebook. In the absence of firm regulation, the company has been offering a pared-down version of its service to consumers in exchange for personal information. Under its Free Basics program, it collects details on when services were accessed, what devices were used and which mobile operators provided connectivity, reports Reuters. It has also been sharing information with third parties, Facebook is said to have admitted.

Coverage of the issue, and negative publicity about Facebook in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, could deal a blow to the social network, which sees Africa as a major growth opportunity. It might also hurt some of the mobile operators that have signed up to the Free Basics program. While some Africans may be happy trading personal information for data connectivity, others could object strongly, especially if they believe the information could be used to influence an election.

Africa's operators already faced some unique challenges in bringing Internet services to the mainstream market. One way or another, the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal could make the job even harder.

— Iain Morris, News Editor, Light Reading

Innovation hub


SA startup launches Life.file, the 'Dropbox for death'

A female-founded South African startup and legal technology company has launched a service called Life.file which helps people create, store and share the legal information loved ones will need when they die.


Hot startup of the month: Nigeria's Gradely

Nigerian AI-based ed-tech solution Gradely is an adaptive learning app that recommends video lessons, practice questions and on-demand tutors to help students master challenging subject areas.

More Innovation hub

Latest video

More videos

Guest Perspectives


Research Bites: The impact of robotics on SA's automobile industry

By Bianca Ifeoma Chigbu and Fhulu Hastings Nekhwevha

This article, in collaboration with the African Journal of Science, Technology, Innovation and Development, explores the collaborative work experience of robotics and human workers in the automobile industry in South Africa.


Omdia View: June 2021

By Omdia Analysts

This month, Omdia's analysts provide context and analysis about Nigeria's Twitter ban, the privatization of Ethio Telecom and Vivendi's fiber plans in Burkina Faso.

More Guest Perspectives

Partner perspectives

All Partner Perspectives

AfricaCom perspectives


Digital inclusion as a catalyst for economic empowerment: Mastercard's Imelda Ngunzu

Mastercard's Imelda Ngunzu talks to Connecting Africa about how digital payment solutions and mobile money are transforming the lives of small business owners, women and marginalized groups in East Africa.


Accelerating women in STEM: In conversation with GirlCode's Tinyiko Simbine

GirlCode co-founder and CFO Tinyiko Simbine talks about why it's important to help girls and young women excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.


How Poa Internet is unlocking meaningful connectivity in East Africa

Poa Internet's CEO Andy Halsall shares his views on what it takes to develop last-mile connectivity and get Africans online in a meaningful way.

More AfricaCom perspectives

Upcoming events

Africa Tech Festival
November 8-12, 2021
Cape Town, South Africa
More Upcoming events

Flash poll

All polls

Upcoming webinars

Digital Skills Enhancing Human Capital

As nations begin to look beyond the crisis of COVID-19 to the new future of work, an opportunity to leverage this disruption as a powerful catalyst for positive change exists – one that could reshape the future and provide more accessible, fair, and impactful digital education and training.

In this webinar, we focus on how digital skills can enhance human capital and help realise the extraordinary potential of intelligent, 4IR-ready African workforces.

Key topics include:

  • Importance of having more than basic digital skills – upskilling & reskilling
  • Championing access to online educational resources – affordable and reliable internet, electricity and hardware
  • Future career options for industry specific roles: Cloud, AI, industrial IoT, big data analytics
  • Education 4.0: How updating educational curricula is key for growth
  • The importance of progressive, industry-driven educational policy frameworks

More Webinars

Sponsored video

More videos

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign Up