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The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has raised alarm over the effects of the reviewed privacy rights by Facebook for users of its social messaging platform, Whatsapp.
The statement, signed by the Head, Corporate Affairs and External Relations, Mrs. Hadiza Umar, pointed out that based on the Agency’s responsibility as enshrined under Section 6 (f) of the NITDA Act 2007, it has resolved to advise Nigerians on how Facebook’s business decision affects their privacy rights.
NITDA in collaboration with the African Network of Data Protection Authorities had engaged Facebook Incorporated, the owners of Whatsapp platform, specifically, its Global Policy officials on April 9, 2021. At the engagement, NITDA gave the Facebook team its opinion on areas to improve compliance with the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR). It further raised concerns as to the marked difference between the privacy standard applicable in Europe, under the GDPR and the rest of the world.
In the wake of the meeting, which is still in view, NITDA has directed Nigerians on measures to take in order to protect themselves against invasion of their privacy.
“As part of the Facebook Companies, WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information with, the other Facebook Companies. We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services and their offerings, including the Facebook Company Products…”
Going by the new policy, Whatsapp shares information which includes account registration information; details on how users interact with others; mobile device information; Internet Protocol address; and Location data, among others.
According to NITDA, other datasets collected by Whatsapp, and shared with sister companies include transactions and payments data; account information; messages (including undelivered messages, media forwarding); usage and log information; device and connection information and location information.
NITDA noted that the Facebook Team confirmed that private messages shared on WhatsApp consumer version are encrypted and not seen by the company, but the metadata (data about the usage of the service) which is also personal information, is shared with other members of the Facebook Group.
In recognising that “millions of Nigerians use Whatsapp platform for business, social, educational, and other purposes and that the platform is the social media platform of choice for many Nigerians”, NITDA therefore advised that Nigerians should also consider other available platforms with similar functionalities which they may wish to explore. “Choice of 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 bases of business exigency.”
On its part, the Agency said it will liaise with other stakeholders to explore all options to ensure Nigerians do not become victims of digital colonialism, especially in view of the Facebook issue and other emerging issues around international technology companies. “Our national security, dignity and individual privacy are cherished considerations we must not lose.”
It further noted that the Agency will work with the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy to organize a hackathon for Nigerians to pitch solutions that can provide services that will provide functional alternatives to existing global social platforms.