PRIVACY SPECIAL: Join the fight back for online privacy in Joburg next week

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We all know about the NSA and Edward Snowden, but what’s the state of online surveillance in South Africa?

As we’ve written before, next Tuesday 11th February is an international day of action planned to raise awareness of online mass surveillance by security services around the world. Called “The Day We Fight Back“, it’s being organised primary from the US to protest the activities of the NSA and ‘Five Eyes’ security agencies from the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The network behind it is a giant alliance of websites and organisation including the Mozilla Foundation, BoingBoing, reddit, ThoughtWorks, Greenpeace, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and more.

Mass, warrantless surveillance and bulk data capture of private information online doesn’t just take place in Europe and America, though. Earlier this week, an organisation called Sniffmap produced a live map estimating that 60% of all South African traffic passes through nodes known to be monitored by the Five Eyes agencies, and our own security services are a lot more invasive than you might think too.

To highlight how this is a local issue, not just an international one, ThoughtWorks and Hacks/Hackers Johannesburg are organising an event next Tuesday evening, at ThoughtWorks offices on Melle Street in Braamfontein (map here). It’ll kick-off at 7pm, and refreshments will be provided by ThoughtWorks.

You can register to attend via Google+ or Meet-up.

There are three speakers, and plenty of opportunities to chat:

  • Vinayak Bhardwaj, the Advocacy Coordinator of M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism aMabhungane and campaign group Right2KNow will talk about what we know South African security services are listening in on, and what we merely suspect goes on.
  • ThoughtWorks’ Quintis Venter will discuss tools we can use to protect ourselves, and the theory of “datensparsamkeit” – the best, ethical practices companies can develop towards capturing customer data. Venter also has some great ideas for how common internet services like social networking and Google Now-type stuff could and should work without being intrusive.
  • Paul Jacobson of Web•Tech•Law is one of Johannesburg’s leading authorities where commerce and privacy meet. He’s well versed in the ways of the up-and-coming and much delayed Protection of Personal Information legislation, and will talk about what rights South African individuals will have and should be exercising once POPI becomes law.

It’s an awesome line-up. See you there.

Adam Oxford

Adam Oxford

Adam is the Editorial Director at htxt media. He has been writing about technology for almost two full decades now. In a previous life, he was the editor of PC Format and Digital Camera Shopper in the UK, before going on to work as a freelance journalist for seven years. His work has appeared in or on Stuff, The Guardian, Linux Format, TechRadar,, PC Gamer, Green Futures, The Journalist, The Ecologist and The Review. Adam moved to South Africa in 2012 and loves 3D printers, MakerFairs and tech hubs. He hates seafood. None of his friends remember this when cooking.