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Nigeria: Electoral Commission accused of data security blunder

Nigeria: Electoral Commission accused of data security blunder.

An ICT-advocacy group in Nigeria is trying to establish how private citizens' data entrusted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for election purposes was allegedly transferred to a third party, www.voters.ng.

Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, whose policy work focuses on the digital rights of citizens, had in a letter dated September 19 asked INEC to make details of its data transaction with www.voters.ng available that the reported transfer of the "delicate social infrastructure exchanged in trust" smacks of distrust and lack of due diligence by a public institution, especially as it was done without any real consent of the citizens involved.

"The biggest challenge would be the legal power that INEC has to share such data," notes Gbenga Sesan, the Executive Director of PIN which has been working to advance digital rights and monitor the legal and policy framework around ICTs in Nigeria to ensure that citizens rights are protected online.

He added, "With no Data Privacy law in Nigeria, it's a grey area but policies and guidelines that most countries subscribe to make it important for sensitive data (such as the unique Voter Identification Number) to be shared only as needed, and for sanctions when such data is abused."

Though a password is now required to access the database on www.voters.ng, Sesan said a lot of harm can still be done or could have been done when it had no password because the publishers shared the entire database that made sensitive data available.

He added, "And it is also important to state that data is currency for some businesses, including even public services that require citizens to supply data in order to get service. If data privacy will not be respected, it places the burden of lack of trust on the service provider who must then do extra work to convince the customer/citizen that their data will be in safe hands. And all these in a country without data privacy laws."

INEC has acknowledged receipt of PIN's letter. It has seven days to respond, according to Sesan.

PIN works to extend the conversation around Digital Rights in Nigeria and Africa through training, research, litigation, publishing of policy briefs and hosting an annual Internet Freedom Forum.

In May, PIN released its second annual report on 'The Status of Internet Freedom in Nigeria' which documented the threats to internet freedom and digital rights with focus on legislative framework and policies in Nigeria and incidents of these threats.

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