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February 20, 2019

Why mobile phones expose you always

A mobile phone user displays the Facebook App on his Phone in Nairobi on October 25, 2018. /ENOS TECHE
A mobile phone user displays the Facebook App on his Phone in Nairobi on October 25, 2018. /ENOS TECHE

If you thought turning off your location settings on social media or mobile phone will help you run away from an online advertisement or being tracked, you are wrong.

According to privacy guidelines on Facebook and Twitter websites, you will still be served with ads despite turning on all privacy user controls in place.

There are several ways to guard and restrict what Facebook can access so that they serve you ads specifically through location-based ad targeting.

The measures include not checking-in to places you visit, not allowing the facebook app to access your phone’s location, not listing your current city in your profile and turning off location history in the facebook app.

However, according to Facebook privacy basics, connection information like your Internet Protocol address or Wi-Fi connection and specific location information like your device’s GPS signal helps tell where you are.

“We may still understand your location using things like check-ins, events, and information about your internet connection,” Facebook says.

This means that even unfollowing accounts that keep annoying you with ads every minute, fast forwarding ads on videos or Installing an ad-blocker on your device will not stop online ads from reaching you.

This loophole, according to Internet and the law advocate Mugambi Laibuta, easily makes way for foreign firms to collect local data for their own commercial use.

Facebook, through their website, notes that an active location helps them keep accounts secure through monitoring where you normally login combined with other information (not revealed) to detect suspicious activity.

In its privacy policy, Twitter says they receive “some personal information from you like the type of device you’re using and your IP address,” when you simply look at tweets.

An IP address will give them access to your location and allow them to serve you ads, people to follow, relevant tweets and keep your account secure.

Government plans to introduce data protection laws. They are currently inform of proposed data protection bills by the ministry of ICT and senator Gideon Moi. Last year, the ministry promised to have the two Bills harmonised. However, this is yet to be done. The Bills seek to give life to Article 31 of the 2010 Constitution which promotes rights to privacy to all citizens.

Laibuta has pointed out glaring loopholes in the bill’s clauses that can hardly be operationalised. For instance, he says clause 4 of the Data Bill 2018 which allows any established or ordinarily resident in Kenya to Process data while in Kenya.

“The above clause is problematic since the act will only apply to data processors or data controllers while they are in Kenya. These entities should be subject to the law even while outside Kenya in relation to data collected in or from Kenya.”

The clause also denies the country billions of shillings in taxes.

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