February 22 2024 GM

From TCU Wiki
Glitter Meetups

Online Monitoring in Ghana

The technology advocate Kwaku will share his insights on how the security structure monitors and intercepts all forms of communication in Ghana, and the use of surveillance tools to monitor persons of interests, critics, and political opponents. Join us to talk also about the gaps in addressing these threats thus far.

Featured guest bio: Kwaku is a technology advocate with diverse working experience covering Internet governance, policy, regulation, research, academia, open data and Internet community networks across the Caribbean and African markets involving private, public & non-governmental sectors. He currently serves as Programs and Outreach Director at the Africa Open Data and Internet Research Foundation.

What is Glitter Meetup?

Glitter Meetup is the weekly town hall of the Internet Freedom community at the IF Square on the TCU Mattermost, at 9am EST / 2pm UTC. It is a text-based chat where digital rights defenders can share regional and projects updates, expertise, ask questions, and connect with others from all over the world! Do you need an invite? Learn how to get one here.


Can you start us of by sharing some information and context on what online monitoring in Ghana looks like thus far? How and why it is happening?

  • A simple definition: Online monitoring: practice of observing and recording individuals' activities on the Internet. Implemented in various contexts: workplaces, schools, and households.
    • primary purpose: to ensure appropriate use of internet resources, enhance security, and prevent undesirable behaviors like cyberloafing and information security incidents
    • implementation of monitoring practices raises ethical concerns

What are some of the ethical concerns so far?

  • In Ghana, there is a national security architecture and the ethical concerns centres on privacy rights.

What is the national security architecture, and how does it relate to the online monitoring mandate?

  • Security and Intelligence Agencies Act, 2020 (Act 1030)
    • National Signal Bureau Act 2020(Act 1040)
    • Provide specialist communications and signal intelligence support for all security agencies • Intercept signals
    • monitor, collect, analyse and disseminate information from cyberspace, electronic media to counter threats to security so as to prevent and deter the commission of a serious crime
    • Given surge in cyber related threats and enormity of its mission, NSB Act 2020 was enacted to enable it brace up for challenges.
    • 660 staff
    • The intelligence agencies operate directly under National Security Council

Was the security and intelligence / National Signal Bureau act ever publicised?

  • The law was passed during covid era, in 2020

Can you share some of the concerning or existing risks associated with online monitoring and interception mandates such as this? Are there specific instances?

  • So there is the national security & intelligence aspect which the NSB has be able to apprehend fraudulent and criminal activities
    • In December 2023 Hon Sam Ablakwa MP opposition
    • Praised Ministry of National Security & NSB..prompt response to compliant of 2 unscrupulous persons duping Ghanaians disaster relief…remanded in court
    • Day are numbered for criminals scamming Ghanaians online/social media
  • There also an example of NSB in the fraud at the National Lottery Authority
  • However two cases are here again give of monitoring;
    • First is the recent concluded treason trial and prosecution of an activist group, whose social media page was intercepted and monitored by NSB. They were charged with high treason, with only two acquited
    • Second is a political activist, in the opposition party who was also intercepted by the NSB. December 2022 Kwaku Rafiki/Comrade Seth Osei Asiedu, Lawyer Sam Gyamfi. NSB office in Labone, didn’t have him….starting questioning him. DG CID. The group was disbanded, trial took 4 years....group wanted to form separate government in western Togoland of Ghana.

Are all of these on the basis of being in opposition to the current government?

  • Yes, in opposition to current government, while others centres on allegedly personal issues between leaders in government and allegedly persons

What are some of the anticipated privacy concerns among digital rights defenders? That the NSB may have access to every online interaction happening within Ghana or concerning Ghana , and may target individuals?

NSB mandated to intercept signals, anything offensive to national security. The scope is grey

What have some of the civil society responses looked like pushing back against these threats?

  • The truth is that we in the civil society discuss among our selves. There is not much in the public domain, except for news items

What would digital rights folks and CSOs need to push back against some of these threats, beyond discussions? And are the reasons that work has been stuck (a very strong assumption here) because there isn't much in the public domain?

  • First off, there needs to be education on the infringement on privacy rights. CSO who have had their comms intercepted need to speak up
  • Well, a very prominent CSO said there was no empirical evidence, however there is a need to do such a research

How would research on surveillance in this manner, which is meant to stay hidden happen? How do you see evidence being collected in ways that don't harm the people attempting to collate that data and evidence?

  • That is a good question, this has to be approached carefully with protection of informant as well some kind of evidence in acceptable form
  • An investigative journalistic approach can be a path

Is there a provision in the law for reporting or transparency on activities of the NSB? And are people more conscious of what they post online after the law passed?

  • There is annual report of the ministry of national security and its agencies to Parliament. However , national security issues are usually held in camera for the sake of 'national security '@

What should we be paying attention to when it comes to digital rights in Ghana? What resources and support are needed to push back, and ensure privacy and protection of individuals?

  • We should be curious of interesting collaboration between government and tech companies on data extraction
  • Telecom companies share location data with government & big tech
  • CSO need to collaborate on data rights and privacy education