Hacking violates privacy

LONDON - Over the last 10 years, social media has evolved into an integral part of society.

The establishment of Facebook in 2004 marked the genesis of a new era in spatialisation.

Other forms of social media developed thereafter.

But it has become apparent that while new technologies have merits, they also have demerits.

A video trending on the internet, titled “Look Up” — which has so far attracted about 34 million views, negative and positive comments — takes a rather uncomplimentary view of social media.

Its producer, Gary Turk, says “we have become a generation of idiots, smart phones and dumb people.”

A generation that craves adulation.

Turk raises valid points. Is social media actually “social” or anti-social when we spend time on modern-day gadgets?

Claiming to have 1 000 “friends” that you have barely met or never socialise with demeans the true meaning of companionship.

Though we may not readily admit it, he is right too that we have become a generation of narcissists obsessed with flaunting achievement and physical looks. 

For how else would we explain the constant posting of self-images images on social media platforms?

To be told you are very ugly? Of course not. Turk’s perception lacks nuance however. Social media has its merits.

Away from our vanities, it can become a tool for productive mobilisation. 

For instance, the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign after the abduction of about 200 girls by the Islamist outfit Boko Haram in Nigeria can benefit from social media.

Put to the right use, social media can become platforms for good.

Politics can also benefit.

Over the past few years, a character named Baba Jukwa has emerged on the cyberspace. 

Given to revealing secrets about Zanu PF, Baba Jukwa emerged as the antithesis to the pro-Zanu PF, Amai Jukwa.

The Baba Jukwa Facebook page became a virtual rallying point for dissent against the Zanu PF regime. 

As the popularity rose, Baba Jukwa featured on Wikipedia, and was spoken in the same breath as Wikileaks’ Julian Assange and US whistleblowers Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden.

Both local and international media fed off the Baba Jukwa revelations.

No doubt that some of the information was provided by people within Zanu PF.

Baba Jukwa claims to be a mole within the party.

During this past weekend, we woke up to reports Baba Jukwa was, in fact, the product of creative minds of two Zimbabwean journalists based in South Africa.

A video and documents revealing the alleged communication between the pair have been posted on the Internet. 

The reporters deny the claims.

If true, it is the method used to obtain the information that should concern us — hacking. Information minister Jonathan Moyo has sought to downplay it.

State media is referring to it as “unknown hackers.”

Clearly, Zanu PF is trying to distance itself from the act.

Are we to believe then that this information simply fell fortuitously on its lap?

It is difficult to imagine that these hackers would act independently to secure information about a person or people whose prosecution Zanu PF is now clamouring for.

Should hacking ever be condoned? It will be argued that Baba Jukwa posed a national security threat — a contestable suggestion itself.

But it also seems hacking is used for other purposes.
Sometime last year, State media reported that MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s wife Elizabeth Macheka had allegedly rekindled a relationship with long-time boyfriend Kennedy Ngirazi; this after securing email exchanges.

There was no case of national security here but pure malice.
In most jurisdictions, hacking is illegal as demonstrated, for example, by the current trial of former editors and reporters at the now-defunct British tabloid, News of The World for phone-hacking.

While there’s a celebratory buzz in some circles about the alleged unmasking of Baba Jukwa, if we value our privacy – which is a right, we should be concerned that hacking does not become a trend.

Comments (4)

Hacking is not illegal if it is done by the authorities under official investigations. That's how law enforcement agencies like the FBI catch child pornographers who use the internet to anonimize their vile acts. And I believe to some extent this baba jukwa character has a case to answer. In many instances he made malicious statements that were meant to purely cause harm. He was involved in the rubbish conspiracy theories immediately after the elections falsely predicting the imminent return of the Zim dollar. That non-sense had nothing to do with "fighting for democracy" but was naked economic sabotage meant to spread panic and dispondency. This guy(s) should do some time in prison.

Nechinanga - 15 May 2014

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