Fraud, Nigeria’s electronic ID card and national security (2)

(By Don Okereke)

Life is quid pro quo! As they say, to him much is given, much is also expected. Nigerians are coaxed into volunteering their priced personal information on the guise of an e-I.D card believing their personal information are in safe hands. Thus it behooves establishments charged with handling these data to ensure their utmost safety. Hence the NIMC must strictly adhere to Section 5 (g) of the Commission’s Act which mandates it to, ‘‘ensure the preservation, protection, sanctity and security (including cyber security) of any information or data collected, obtained, maintained or stored in respect of the National identity Database.

Continued from last Thursday (9-10-2014)

DISCERNING and concerned Nigerians are worried with this arrangement which entails sharing biometric and sensitive personal information of Nigerians with a private foreign firm especially in this age of ‘Big Data’, and given the cache of top secret documents released by Edward Snowden.In them were revealed massive global metadata surveillance, eavesdropping, interception of radio, telecommunications, internet traffic monitoring and information sharing programmes.

These include programmes such as ‘’PRISM’’ with Microsoft as a partner, ‘‘XKeyscore’’, ‘‘Tempora’’, ‘‘Muscular’’, ‘‘Project 6’’, ‘‘Ironavenger’’, ‘‘Quantum Insert’’, by the intelligence agencies of the ‘‘Five Eyes’’ namely -Australia (ASD), Britain (GCHQ), Canada CSEC), New Zealand, United States (NSA) and other mishmash of international collaborators such as Denmark (PET), France (DGSE), Germany (BND), Italy (AISE), Norway (NIS), Switzerland (NDB), Spain (CNI), and Israel’s (ISNU).

The global super powers don’t even trust themselves as it emerged the mobile phone of German’s Chancellor Angela Merkel was reportedly tapped by United States intelligence agencies. Renowned technology firms headquartered in the West such as Microsoft, Apple, Verizon Wireless, Facebook, Yahoo!, Google etc of this world, are suspected to be either covertly or overtly complicit. This explains why most countries are wary to award certain critical national security contracts to foreign firms. Aftermath of the allegations of spying leveled against the NSA, Germany swiftly expelled CIA’s station officer in her territory and subsequently cancelled its contract with Verizon Wireless, a U.S. firm. The Germans and some other countries are mulling the possibility of reverting to manual typewriters to counter hi-tech espionage.

In June 2014, Chinese state-run TV dubbed Windows 8 a ‘security threat’ over allegations that Windows 8 Operating System is a tool for espionage. The Chinese contend that Windows 8 harvests private metadata and sends same back to Servers in the United States. The Chinese government consequently banned the use of Windows 8 Operating System for Government Computers. In the same vein, use of Chinese-made Huawei products is banned by the U.S. government over a similar allegation. Sequel to the NSA spying revelations, India considered a policy that would ‘‘compel companies to maintain part of their IT infrastructure in-country, give local authorities access to the encrypted data on their Servers for criminal investigations, and prevent local data from being moved out of the country.’’

The giant of Africa is going on the reverse direction. No thanks to two daft swoops a.k.a. #TacticalManeuvers (apologies to the DHQ) vis-à-vis the internet surveillance contract and the latest e-I.D Card deal, Nigeria effectively outsourced its very critical national security databases (names, addresses, phone numbers, passport photos, fingerprints etc) to two robust partners – Israel and the United States on a platter of gold. One wonders if Nigeria’s national security think tank ever carried out a due diligence before these deals were consummated.

Life is quid pro quo! As they say, to him much is given, much is also expected. Nigerians are coaxed into volunteering their priced personal information on the guise of an e-I.D card believing their personal information are in safe hands. Thus it behooves establishments charged with handling these data to ensure their utmost safety. Hence the NIMC must strictly adhere to Section 5 (g) of the Commission’s Act which mandates it to, ‘‘ensure the preservation, protection, sanctity and security (including cyber security) of any information or data collected, obtained, maintained or stored in respect of the National identity Database. Folks responsible for data security must be well trained to be highly efficient. Financial institutions must invest in cutting-edge banking software that will forestall the previously mentioned unintended consequences.

Granted Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) barely states that the ‘‘privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected’’, one is not aware that Nigeria has a well-defined Data Protection Law.

In line with international best practices, it is high time the National Assembly brainstormed, passed a comprehensive Data Protection Law which must inter alia, stipulate legal, regulatory framework and safeguards, guidelines for storing, using personal data, and also stringent penalties for defaulters. On a related note, the National Assembly will do well to expedite passage of the National Cyber Security Bill.

Finally, a poser: With an estimated 1,400 or more illegal entry points to Nigeria and with millions of illegal aliens resident in this country, is there any assurance that foreigners will not obtain the e-ID card? Nigeria we hail thee!

• Concluded.

•Okereke is security analyst/consultant. www.donokereke.blogspot.com
Twitter: @donokereke

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