The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) wants Nigerians to be wary of the new terms of service introduced by WhatsApp. NITDA said Nigerians should avoid becoming victims of digital colonialism following their use of the Facebook-owned app.

This advice was contained in a statement on Monday, titled ‘WhatsApp privacy policy changes: Implication for Nigerian users’, signed by the Head of Corporate Affairs and External Relations at NIDTA, Mrs. Hadiza Umar. The statement read, “The National Information Technology Development Agency under Section 6 (f) of the NITDA Act 2007 wishes to provide this advisory to Nigerians to address Nigerian concerns on changes to WhatsApp Terms of Service and Privacy Policy which took effect on May 15, 2021.

“Millions of Nigerians use WhatsApp platform for business, social, educational, and other purposes. The platform is the social media platform of choice for many Nigerians. To understand the issues and give an opportunity to explain its views, NITDA in collaboration with the African Network of Data Protection Authorities engaged Facebook Incorporated, the owners of WhatsApp platform, specifically, its global Policy officials on April 9, 2021. After the engagement, NITDA, as Nigeria’s data privacy regulator, wishes to advise Nigerians on how Facebook’s business decision affects their privacy rights.”

NITDA told Nigerians that they are at liberty to decide on giving consent to the processing of their data. The statement added: “WhatsApp users are at liberty to decide on giving consent to the processing of their data based on the new privacy policy. The Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) recognises consent (a clear, unambiguous expression of privacy terms communicated by the controller and accepted by the Data Subject) as one of the lawful basis for data processing. Acceptance of the new privacy policy and terms of use implies that user’s 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.”

NITDA further reiterated that Nigerians have other similar platforms open to them to explore beyond WhatsApp. The agency also advised that Nigerians should limit the sharing of sensitive personal information on private messaging and social media platforms, especially since business exigency has been prioritised over privacy and security.

The statement stressed that with a re-confirmation of Nigeria’s engagement with Facebook while stating that the agency is focused on ensuring that Nigerians do not become victims of digital colonialism. “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.

“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,”​the statement read.

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