A day in the life of Mercy, a 28-year-old cis woman living in Nairobi


Written by the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders - Kenya and Privacy International

05:00: Mercy’s alarm goes off. She gets out of the warmth of the bed into the piercing morning chill. She switches on the bedside lamp and reaches for her Bible. She then checks in onto her devotional group on Facebook, as she does every morning. Her Facebook app keeps track of her location, and the time she wakes up.

05:24: She steps into the shower and prepares for her day in the office as she grabs her morning dose of detox juice.

05.51: Mercy logs onto social media to read about politics and conspiracy theories.

06:32: She leaves for work using public transport, so she has to wait for a 'matatu' with sitting space. She has to be careful to listen to the route the vehicle is using, otherwise she will be late. She continues browsing Facebook and Instagram while on the bus.

07:28: She arrives at the office, where it is a slow day. She compiles a few reports as she wonders if she made the right choice by joining the corporate world. She takes on a few meetings and the day sails by.

11:27: Mercy receives a text message from her uncle asking if she can come and pick him up from the hospital after his surgery on Friday.

12:05: Her mother calls, she is cooking a special dinner for the family tonight and asks if she can borrow 1,000 KSH. Mercy logs into her bank’s app and sends 1,000 KSH to her M-Pesa account. She sends the money to her mum; while her phone provider Safaricom keeps a record.

17:04: She leaves the office to go on a date with a man she met on Tinder and has been talking to for the past couple of days. He does not quite live up to her expectations and she decides to leave early. 

18:02: Just as she gets home, her sister calls and they start chatting about Mercy’s nieces. She knows they will need financial support with school fees.

19:00: With an uncle she needs to take care of, a mother who always needs a little extra and now her nieces on her mind, Mercy thinks now is a good time to get a loan. She has heard about an app that can offer credit instantaneously. She just needs to download it and answer a few basic questions.

19:15: The app accesses all her conversations: the app can see the text her uncle sent her today and that her mom and sister called. The content of the text and the metadata of the calls are sent to California where it is analysed and permanently stored. The app also takes notes of the time she has spent on social media and what she has posted. She types fast, which means there are often spelling mistakes in her posts. She likes all-caps and exclamation marks. The app looks at her phone’s address book and the way the entries are classified. She rarely bothers with surnames, especially with Tinder dates like the one she met earlier tonight. All those things may seem like irrelevant details but they are used to build Mercy’s profile: apparently she’s an impulsive woman, who spends too much time on social media and whose family is relying on her. The app denies her credit request but encourages her to keep the app installed, as she may have more luck in the future. It will carry on uploading her data on a daily basis

21:00: She takes a quick shower, switches on the TV puts on one of the shows she is following as she enjoys a smoothie. After a few swipes on Tinder, she retires to bed.