In Summary
  • Facebook Express falls within the suite of services that Facebook launched under the Internet.org initiative – starting with Facebook Basics, a service that gives free access to Facebook and some extras, such as weather forecasts.
  • Facebook Basics was later banned in India as a Facebook-selected microcosm of the Internet that raised the spectre of up to half the country’s population sitting solely within a commercially controlled Internet space.    
  • By end of last year, Facebook had rolled out a new service again, initially solely in Kenya and Nigeria, but subsequently in India, Tanzania and Indonesia, called Facebook Express.

Global social networking giant Facebook, which is facing a storm of international protest over its data mining and consumer data protection, is collecting additional citizen data beyond its users through the Wi-Fi Express programme it launched last year in Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, India, and Indonesia, the Business Daily has learned.

It has emerged that the company, which has in recent weeks suffered a mass user withdrawal following exposés that it has been acting as a gateway to those who want to collect data on millions of users, such as data firm Cambridge Analytica, may be mining even deeper into consumer data in the developing world where laws are weak or non-existent and regulators are lacking the knowledge and technology to monitor its activities.

With eyes now focused on the scale of Facebook’s data gathering and data selling through its own platform, the company’s Express Internet service, which has been rolled out in thousands of hotspots, including more than 1,000 in Kenya, is thought to have deepened the company’s data gathering capacity with unknown consequences to consumers.

Facebook Express falls within the suite of services that Facebook launched under the Internet.org initiative – starting with Facebook Basics, a service that gives free access to Facebook and some extras, such as weather forecasts.

Facebook Basics was later banned in India as a Facebook-selected microcosm of the Internet that raised the spectre of up to half the country’s population sitting solely within a commercially controlled Internet space.    

By end of last year, Facebook had rolled out a new service again, initially solely in Kenya and Nigeria, but subsequently in India, Tanzania and Indonesia, called Facebook Express.

The new service is a standard paid-for Wi-Fi service, launched as a ‘feel-good’ peoples’ Internet.

It is not the cheapest in Kenya, but is at the cheaper end of the country’s fiercely competitive data market, offering, for instance, 3GB of monthly data for Sh500.

In launching Wi-Fi Express, Facebook did not want to get into the ISP business itself, and instead offered to supply ISP partners the equipment for their Wi-Fi access points.
Each access point costs around $250 (Sh25,000) and around another $200 (Sh20,000) to install.

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