FG moves to safeguard vital private data of Nigerians

Digital Content

Lagos. November 21, 2013: Nigerians that can prove they suffered damage from “an unlawful processing operation” of their private data by an organisation may soon heave a sigh of relief as they will receive compensations under a major data protection plan underway by government.
Under several identity programmes, the private information of Nigerians collected for needs ranging from banking, mobile telephony, electoral, national ID card, among other needs now reside with several public and private sector organisations who have become custodians of sensitive biometric information of the citizenry.

The plan also enables Nigerians have greater say in who collects their private data and what they are used for under a government programme to regulate and protect vital information of the citizens amid growing Internet penetration in the country to guarantee that “personal data must be processed fairly and lawfully.”

Under several identity programmes, the private information of Nigerians collected for needs ranging from banking, mobile telephony, electoral, national ID card, among other needs now reside with several public and private sector organisations who have become custodians of sensitive biometric information of the citizenry.

The Federal Government appears set to ensure greater safeguard for private information of Nigerians and will require organisations holding private of Nigerian to appoint a Data Security Officer (DSO), the equivalent of an in-house gatekeeper for organisations to maintain data protection compliance, among other stringent protection and regulatory measures.

The government plan will cover broad personal data seen as “any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person (“data subject”); information relating to an individual, whether it relates to his or her private, professional or public life. It can be anything from a name, address, a photo, an email address, bank details, posts on social networking websites, medical information, or a computer’s IP address.”

Law enforcement and security agencies will be excluded from plan as the “Guidelines does not cover the processing of personal data processing operations concerning public security, defence, national security and the activities of the nation in areas of criminal law”, according to government.

The plan is the initiative of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), the National IT Policy implementing agency, which has unveiled the Draft Guidelines on Data Protection obtained by TECHNOLOGY TIMES that mandates government and private organisations to comply with measures to safeguard vital private information of Nigerians in their custody.

NITDA says the document serves as “guides on the processing of information relating to identifiable individuals (Personal Data), including the obtaining, holding, use or disclosure of such information to protected such information from inappropriate access, use, and disclosure.”