The Foundation for Ethnic And Religious Tolerance (FERET) after extensive research and deliberation by its forensic data specialist and scientists is belaboured with the findings stemming from activities of Cyberwarfare and breaches of our national security by Facebook, SCL Group and Cambridge Analytical based in the United Kingdom. This is coming on the heels of the recent unfolding from the last week’s hearings at the American Senate and Congress where Mark Zuckerberg were put through rigorous questioning before the Judicial and Commerce Committee’s to explain the unacceptable data privacy compromises of about 50 million American Facebook accounts associated with the cyber meddling in 2015 US elections. The United Kingdom’s house Parliament, Australian government and Philippines most recent have called for detailed explanations of this dangerous data predation saga and its impact to our private lives, collective democracies and national security.
It will be very illuminating to study the published report of not 18th, March 2018 by The Guardian newspaper UK, but the entire Cambridge Analytica Files on its news platform, as well as other credible sources of information which we can share if called upon. It is in the public space that Facebook which has the primary responsibility of archiving and protecting the privacy rights and data resources stemming from the use of its global platform had failed to uphold its critical brand promise. Facebook therefore has detrimentally impinged the peaceful existence of the hardworking 198 million citizens of Nigeria based on data from Nigeria Population Commission (NPC) and clearly Nigeria’s sovereignty by not policing Cambridge Analytica’s possession and use of formerly thought to be secure Nigerian data cum information cache in its servers. The investigations as published on the cover page of the Nigeria Guardian of April 14th, 2018 detail that based on Facebook’s forensic audits, 78 users in Nigeria installed Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica app. And further 271,469 Facebook accounts of Nigerians are now known to have been impacted by privacy pirates to cause disharmony and by extension wage war on the Nigerian people and state unbeknownst to us in election 2007 and particularly that of 2015. In a paragraph in the Guardian’s reportage it explains that:
“The Special Council Agent Robert Mueller’s investigation traced the first stage of the Russian operations of meddling to disrupt the 2016 US Election back to 2014, when the Russian state and CEO of LukOil – Vagit Alekperov made what appears to be it’s first concerted efforts to harness the power of America’s social media platforms including Facebook to skew voter outcomes. Cambridge Analytical (CA) provided the Russian Oil firm with its datasets, capabilities and methodology. Documents focused on “election disruption techniques”. The first slide of its presentation illustrated how a “rumour campaign” spread fear in the 2007 “Nigeria” election in which the company worked – by spreading the idea that the “election could be rigged”!
The Whistle blower Christopher Wylie PhD, a reputed data scientists and geek emphasized facebooks lack lustre attitude to protect vital Nigerian information (as also those of other nations) which was mined and used to perpetrate discord while Nigerians were at the polls charting their nation’s peaceful and progressive future. In the light of CA’s microtargeting operations as well as its machiavellian intent and actions to propagate dangerous misinformation it unleashed a recipe for death and destruction in Nigeria a sovereign state. The pre-2007 and election reports recorded killings and maimings that can directly be traced to this information acts of warfare which will be evident in the CA data flows. Human rights organisations recorded 800 deaths linked directly to the 2015 elections nationwide. These deaths and the accompanying destruction are aftermaths of Facebook’s renege of its weighty responsibility to use of its platform for benign communication by it’s account holder and in this case Nigerians. The Mercenary tactics of Cambridge Analytica and Facebook’s lack of transparency expressed by Wylie in the statement: ” Facebook could see what was happening” showed its lack of professional action to discharge its duties to its users, thereby being complicit. The American Senator Anna Esohoo at the April 12th 2018 congressional hearing asked Mark Zuckerberg a thought provoking question – “Do you think you have a moral right to run a platform that protects our democracy? The Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committee session was titled “Facebook, Social Media Privacy and the Use and Abuse of Data”.
The Nigeria Senate can borrow a leaf from this precedence for its own session which the Nigerian people constitutionally and expeditiously demand. A hugely sizeable number of Nigeria lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives have social media accounts especially Facebook, which is used to reach and bridge communication gaps with the people they serve in their constituency. The sensitive data of the Senators and House of Representatives members were equally targeted and stolen. The breaches at this highly sensitive level equally need to be investigated to determine which of your 485 other colleagues have become exposed amongst those in the hallowed Green and Red Chambers. Vera Jourova, the savvy European Justice Commissioner investigating this Facebook & Cambridge Analytica data breaches for the EU block has deleted her Facebook as her response to the challenges of being exposed to cyber criminals and in consideration of the large and poweful constituency she represents. FERET is not inferring this must be done by all senators and honourable in Nigeria, its just to show the responses taken by lawmakers in other climes to this unacceptable measure of failure in global oversight functions by policy and legislative systems. Facebook has a history of privacy hostility and has a history of privacy and data infractions. The American (FTC) Federal Trade Commission’s director David Vladeck wrote earlier last month “Facebook cannot claim to be clueless about how this happened, the FTC using American consent decree laws put Facebook on notice. In 2011_ Facebook agreed to settle charges that it deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on the platform private and then allowing that data to be shared and made public, according to the FTC at the time. The deal called for levies of US$40,000 per violation. In effect based on each of the 271,469 Nigerian’s user’s Facebook account information improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica means potentially Facebook owes us the sum of about $10,858,760,000.
It is upon the above premise that FERET, a reputed civil society organisation with a fascinatingly conservative image but rich history of interventions on critical national issues unequivocally is prompted to ask the Nigeria Senate and House of Representatives to seek redress on behalf of the Nigeria people who it constitutionally represents. Nigeria has been unrepentantly and damagingly taken advantage of and exposed. On our part we are considering taking legal action against the parties SCL Group, Cambridge Analytica and Facebook at the International Criminal Court. Paul -Olivier Dehaye a data expert based in Switzerland rhetorted that it is apparent Facebook is “abusive by design”. Facebook has thrived from support by the US National security establishment, who failed to check the despecable excesses of political weaponry deployed against Nigerians as its beta stage guinea pig for psyops (psychological operations). The operations of SCL Group through its subsidiary CA involved the changing of people’s minds not through persuasion but through “information dominance”, a set of of techniques that includes dispensing rumour, disinformation and fake news. SCL Elections another proxy firm had used a similar suite of tools in more than 200 elections around the world, mostly in underdeveloped democracies like Nigeria’s given that these nations were unequipped to defend themselves, thereby causing unrest, economic disruptions and costing lives.
It is safe to say that the use of Novichok, the nuclear/nerve agent poison an international infraction labelled against the Russian state for its dangerous attempted assassination of ex-double agent Sergie Skripal and his daughter Yulia on UK soil and for which 23 Russian diplomats have been expelled is in direct comparative measure to the use of this cutting-edge cyberweaponry on Nigerians. This form of “information operations” which ranks alongside land, sea, air and space in the US Military doctrine of the five dimensional battle spaces was unleashed on Nigeria and its people with an intent to cause grave national harm and trigger if possible failed statehood.
FERET seeks for the upper and lower houses to update and reinforce our cyber security laws as a bulwark against such a reoccurrence. In a letter dated 06-05-2014, I wrote to former President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan GCFR, a copy is attached here amongst other documents. On page 5 of the letter I called his attention to the recurrent spying on Nigeria by various social networks as well as other breaches and expressed that data from Nigerians online was being used against us detrimentally. The Nigeria state must never make this same kind of mistake twice, we must impact invest in Information Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) and vigorously grow it own indigenous cyber-tactics and strategies to overcome this pillage on our national interests, imagery and to mitigate such dastardly action from which our nation’s people continue to suffer torture, ethnic mistrust, a greater rise in terrorism, militancy, forced migration leading to modern day slavery as witnessed in Libya and further economic misfortune. The actions by Facebook and Cambridge Analytica are fueling and triggering SALW and Craft weapons proliferation in Nigeria and subregion. As we draw closer to crucial 2019 elections history of this kind must not repeat itself.
Please do accept the assurances of our highest regards and cooperation with your institution to wrestle this national data breach sage to a logical conclusion, thereby stemming the dangerous tide of harm brought upon us by those who can otherwise be termed as enemies of our development and growth as a democratic and peace-loving nation.
Ebisike Ebube George
Executive Director Policy, Government Relations/R&D