Nigerian social media users, especially WhatsApp, have been advised to limit the sharing of their sensitive personal information on those platforms, warning that the initial promise (by these platforms) of privacy and security is now being overridden on the bases of business exigency.
The National Information Technology Development Agency gave the warning in a statement by its Head, Corporate Affairs and External Relations, Hadiza Umar.
Millions of Nigerians use WhatsApp platform for business, social, educational and other purposes.
NITDA said it, in collaboration with the African Network of Data Protection Authorities, engaged Facebook Incorporated, owners of WhatsApp, on April 9, 2021 and that as Nigeria’s data privacy regulator, felt the need to advice Nigerians on how Facebook’s business decision affects their privacy rights.
Data/information collected by WhatsApp include account information; messages (including undelivered messages, media forwarding); connections; status information; transactions and payments data; usage and log information; device and connection information; location information; and cookies.
Others include battery level; signal strength; app version; browser information; mobile network; connection information (including phone number, mobile operator or ISP), language and time zone; Internet Protocol address; device operations information; and social media identifiers.
WhatsApp shares these information and with the Facebook company, together with account registration information, details on how users interact with others, mobile device information, Internet Protocol address and location data, among others.
NITDA added: “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.
NITDA, therefore, advised users that there are other available platforms with similar functionalities which they may wish to explore.
“Nigeria’s engagement with Facebook continues. We have given them our opinion on areas to improve compliance with the NDPR. We have also raised concerns as to the marked difference between the privacy standard applicable in Europe, under the GDPR and the rest of the world,” it said.
The agency said it is working with stakeholders towards exploring all options “to ensure Nigerians do not become victims of digital colonialism.”