According to a new study, many African governments gather, retain, and handle biometric data on their residents without adequate methods to safeguard data security and privacy. The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) prescribes what constitutes acceptable protections in its Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa.
The paper is titled ‘Privacy Endangered: An Analysis of Surveillance, Encryption, and Data Localization Laws in Africa,’ and it was conducted in 23 African nations. Algeria, Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Guinea Conakry, Côte d’Ivoire, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Niger, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Sudan, and Togo are among the countries involved.
According to the report, despite governments’ vast collection of biometric data for reasons such as SIM card registration, national ID card, passport, or driver’s license issuance, many nations fail to fulfill data privacy measures mandated by international human rights legislation.
According to the report, many countries fail to meet the requirements of Principle 40 of the ACHPR Declaration, which guarantees people’s rights to privacy and the protection of their personal information, as well as Principle 42 of the same Declaration, which urges states to put in place appropriate legislative regimes that protect personal information in accordance with international human rights law.
According to the report, some countries have defective, insufficient, or improperly enforced data privacy rules, and in many cases, there are no or few robust monitoring mechanisms in place to ensure regulatory compliance.
Another source of worry for the researchers is the ease with which other parties, such as security organizations, might get access to biometrics and other data in the name of upholding law and order. They use Algeria as an example of a country where personal data protection laws allow sensitive personal information to be used for the public good.
The paper acknowledges that widespread data collection endangers data privacy, and that African nations must therefore enact legislation capable of successfully protecting people’s biometric data obtained for official purposes.
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