Nigeria govt. frowns at new Whatsapp privacy policy

.cautions citizens on platform usage

Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami

By Victor Akindele

The Federal Government of Nigeria has expressed its reservation over the updated privacy policy of the WhatsApp messaging platform, saying it violates some of the provisions of the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR).

The policy states that WhatsApp will share information about the users on their platform with their parent company (Facebook), as well as other Facebook companies. The information includes user phone numbers, “transaction data, service-related information, information on how you interact with others (including businesses) when using our Services, mobile device information, your IP address”.

Furthermore, WhatsApp has indicated that users who refuse to accept their revised privacy policy risk not being able to use the service at all.

While noting that this policy violates the provision of the NDPR, the government in a statement signed by the Technical Assistant to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Femi Adeluyi, said: “The Federal Government released the Nigeria Data Protection Regulations (NDPR) in 2019 and is committed to upholding the data privacy of Nigerians.  We are also aware that the European region is exempt from the provisions of the updated Policy and it is also being challenged in a number of countries.

“The Honourable Minister has therefore directed the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), as the Regulator of the Information Technology sector, to engage vigorously with Facebook to understand the processes, level of security, etc. of the data of Nigerian users to ensure that Policies proposed for Nigeria strictly adhere to the provisions of NDPR.

“Nigerians can be assured that the Federal Government will give uttermost attention to the privacy of their data, in line with the NDPR and the National Digital Economy Policy for a Digital Nigeria” the statement read.

Meanwhile, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA has issued an advisory to Nigerians on the use of WhatsApp, warning them to limit what they share on the platform. NITDA noted that Whatsapp users are at liberty to decide on giving consent to the processing of their data based on the new privacy policy, adding that the NDPR recognises consent as one of the lawful bases for data processing.

“Acceptance of the new privacy policy and terms of use implies that user data would now be shared with Facebook and other third parties. Users will now be subject to the terms and policies of Facebook and other receiving entities with or without being direct subscribers to such services.

“Nigerians may wish to note that there are other available platforms with similar functionalities which they may wish to explore. Choice of a platform should consider data sharing practices, privacy, ease of use among others; and limit the sharing of sensitive personal information on private messaging and social media platforms as the initial promise of privacy and security is now being overridden on the basis of business exigency.

While noting that the country would continue its engagement with Facebook, the owners of WhatsApp, NITDA said the agency had given the company its opinion on areas to improve compliance with the NDPR. It added that the Agency had also raised concerns as to the marked difference between the privacy standard applicable in Europe, under the GDPR, and the rest of the world.

“Given the foregoing and other emerging issues around international technology companies, NITDA, with stakeholders, is exploring all options to ensure Nigerians do not become victims of digital colonialism.

“Our national security, dignity, and individual privacy are cherished considerations we must not lose. Because of this, we shall work with the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy to organise a hackathon for Nigerians to pitch solutions that can provide services that will provide functional alternatives to existing global social platforms,” NITDA stated.




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