Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Kansas City Shuffle

Its a blindfold kick back type of a game
Callled the Kansas City Shuffle
Whereas you look left and they fall right
Into the Kansas City Shuffle
Its a they-think you-think you don't know
Type of Kansas City hustle
Where you take your time
Wait your turn
And hang them up, and out to dry
(J. Ralph) 
What do you think you are being distracted from by popular hashtags, trending topics and wall-to-wall coverage on TV of largely meaningless politicking? There are many things that we are being distracted from, not the east being the massive amount of debt we owe international "development" partners like China, the United Kingdom and the United States of America or the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The public debt, big or small, will need the dogged investigatory chops of the likes of the Mars Group, David Ndii, John Githongo and all those other scourges of the Jubilation that I feel that I will simply contribute more hot air than is climatologically safe. On the other scandals such as constitutional overreaches by members of the Executive or the legislature, Okiya Okoiti Omtata seems to be on the ball so far, so I'll let those go too.

On our falling under Big Brother's eye, I have seen little commentary by the libertarian champions of privacy. We are not just under the continuous beady eye of the Ministry of Interior and Co-ordination of national Government through its National Intelligence Service, National Police Service (Directorate of Criminal Investigations), the National Registration Bureau or the Department of Immigration. We are now being actively surveilled by our banks, the credit reference bureaux, the foreign exchange bureaux, watchmen and security personnel at each building in the business district, our supermarkets, our "upmarket" fashion houses, the taxman, political parties and, most insidiously, our telecommunications services providers.

Few of us appreciate how insidious the surveillance is mostly because we have ceded our privacy in inches without even realising. Simple transactions such as the registration of personal details when obtaining SIM cards from telcos have morphed into an expectation that individuals shall "willingly" part with their personal information wherever and whenever it is demanded, whether by public institutions or private parties. There is no earthly reason why we must share personal details at every instance. Even in those instances that they insist are security-related, it isn't necessary to provide private details to those that demand it.

Kenya is really schizophrenic when it comes to surveillance, privacy and security. Walk around Nairobi and the oppressive sense of imminent danger is hard to shake off. Every single public building is surrounded by a metal fence, sometimes the fence encroaches on what should be space for the walking masses. Each public building has at least four other layers of security: armed Administration Police from the Security for Government Buildings formation of the AP service, followed by private security, followed by CCTV and finally followed by the demand that every visitor to the public building to profer  their personal details before being granted entry. None of these measures have enhanced the security or safety of these buildings; instead, they have guaranteed that the State will always be seen as a hostile occupying force in their lives.

But the demand for personal details for every transaction, major and minor, is what should worry all of us. In the last month alone, thousands of Kenyans have discovered that since at least 2012 many of their details were used to register them as members of political parties with which they have nothing in common. The only way this could have happened is that their personal details were shared by someone who claimed an authority to demand them it the first place. The Data Protection Bill creates the impression that ones personal data can be protected from misuse; it would be better that everyone that would demand personal details should show very compelling reasons to demand it in the first place.

So, what else are we being distracted from?

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