Group seeks policy to regulate collection, use of personal data

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A group, African Academic Network on Internet Policy, has expressed concern over the indiscriminate collection and use of personal data without government’s policy to regulate the process.

The group, at a forum it organised at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan on Monday, called on stakeholders to work toward checking the   trend.

The theme of the forum was:  “Data Privacy and Security: Building the Evidence Base and a Multi-stakeholder Action Base for Personal Data Protection.’’

DrTemitopeAladesanmi, a member of the steering committee of  the group, said without a strong and united voice for data protection, individuals, organisations and governments could be sitting “ on a keg of gun powder.’’

“You drop your personal data everywhere you go, be it at the banks, hospitals and schools; but you never have an idea what these data are being used for. Are they being used for the purpose for which they were collected?

“For instance, someone may legally collect your data, but then sell it to a telecommunication provider who intrudes into your privacy through telemarketing.

“They never told you they would use your data for marketing purposes, but now your data are now being used for business gains. This is bad,” he said.

Aladesanmi, a researcher at the Cyber Security Research Laboratories of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife,  called on academics  to assist policy makers with findings capable of checking this trend.

“What is the state of things in Africa as regards legislation because everything depends on legislation? Do we need to strengthen existing legislation by communicating research findings to policy makers?

“It has become imperative for us in this part of the world to begin to create fundamentals and policies on how these data are collected, accessed and used,” he said.

Dr Tunji Olaopa, Executive Vice-Chairman, Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP), on his part, identified a critical gap regarding the way African policy makers and researchers respond to internet policies.

“Internet is shaping the future of the globe, but Africa is laid back.But if government is laid back, why are researchers and scholars not heard?

“There is no research reflecting Africa’s perspective in global conversation regarding the future of the internet, whereas the internet is growing daily,” he said.

According to Olaopa, the solution lies in bridging the gap by empowering researchers to come up with findings helpful to policy makers.“The level of gap that Africa is suffering cannot, however, be addressed first by legislation.

“The first thing is to call on researchers to go to the field and generate data that can be developed into policy briefs,” he said.

The President of the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA), Sunday Folayan, called for a balance in the amount of information needed to complete transactions online.“As we move into the digital economy and do more things online, the amount of information you need to complete transactions should not be enormous.

“They should also not be things that are within the reach of criminals,” he said.

He lamented the manner people eagerly divulge personal information on the internet or in telephone conversations in public places.“It is the same in some hospitals. There is every chance that a roasted plantain seller will serve you with the medical record of someone. It is unbelievable that this is happening.

“The hospitals could install shredders and shred all these papers when they are done, but instead, they think selling them to groundnut sellers is a better method of disposal,” he said.

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