Government surveillance of private citizens has been a privacy issue for years. Conspiracy theorists will tell you all governments spy on their citizens. Behind these theories are the companies and systems that make this surveillance possible.
One of those companies is Circles
, a surveillance firm that reportedly snoops on calls, texts, and the location of phones around the globe. Two things that stand out about Circles is that its products can work without needing to hack your phone.
It also sells those products only to countries and at the moment, 25 countries have been identified to be using Circles products.
Kenya, Nigeria, Botswana, Morocco, Zambia, Equatorial Guinea and Zimbabwe are among the African countries that are Circle customers.
In Nigeria, two Circle systems were identified by a report.
“Members of civil society in Nigeria face a wide range of digital threats. A recent report by Front Line Defenders concluded that Nigeria’s government “has conducted mass surveillance of citizens’ telecommunications.” The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has also reported multiple cases of the Nigerian government abusing phone surveillance.
“An investigation by Nigerian newspaper Premium Times found that Nigerian governors of Bayelsa and Delta states purchased systems from Circles to spy on their political opponents. In Delta State, Premium Times reports that the system was installed at the “governor’s lodge,” and operated by employees of the Governor, rather than police. In Bayelsa State, the governor reportedly used the Circles system to spy on his opponent in an election, as well as his opponent’s wife and aides.”
Go deeper: Uncovering the Clients of Cyberespionage Firm Circles