By Juliet Umeh
The increasing influence of social media has made cyberspace home for many youths. Interestingly, for economic, social, political and administrative reasons, almost everybody is on the cyberspace too, embarking on one form of digital activity or the other.
Today, people conveniently use digital means to transact businesses, access funds and many more. This development creates room for more openness, interconnectivity, access and information sharing.
However, the implication is that as a digital person, one’s identity is reduced to digits and it’s available to everyone to see. Meanwhile, anybody that has access to those digits can pretend to be the owner. This is what experts described as identity theft. It leads to threat to people’s safety, privacy, among others.
That is why everybody must be aware of his data, how to manage and protect it. Data awareness is also the new way and best means of fighting cyber crime, according to many cybersecurity experts.
However, cybersecurity experts have advised that as much as people strive to explore all the digital means, they need to be very mindful of what they present while on the internet to avoid being victims of fraudsters.
One of such experts is Mr. Wariowei Shiverly , a National Informational Technology Development Agency, NITDA, top shot.
Shiverly represented NITDA at the recently held Nigerian Internet Governance Forum, NIGF, in Lagos.
He said: “As the saying goes, whatever you present on the internet never comes down. The picture you portray of yourself will remain there even though you wiped the means by which you made that upload.
“What we can do as individuals is to be mindful of what we present online. Don’t expose all that you have about yourself, because the pieces of information you upload here and there, when they are aggregated, it can be used to identify you, that’s what is called personally identifiable data.
“It can be found by aggregating all that you may have uploaded separately.”
He also warned that data controllers should always be held to account on how they use people’s data.
Shively said, “We must have at one point or the other received unsolicited SMSs, some addressed to us directly, maybe from your information gotten from other sources.
“For instance, I am here and I have given my data to the bank for the BVN procedure and then if I can have any proof that my data has been misused in that respect, it is my duty to raise issues about that data misuse.”
However, all hope is not lost when one’s data is misused. According to Shively, people can approach the law to seek redress and punish offenders. He said there’s Nigerian data protection regulation which protects an individual’s data and pronounces some degree of punishments to whoever that misuses it.
He said: “For instance, these days we are constantly confronted with the issue of cybercrimes where someone steals your identity does something that is illegal in a given country, when that happens, there are rules and regulations; laws that are put in place to bring to justice whoever that does that.
“We have one of those laws in this country-the cyber crimes prohibition act of 2015, that is a regulation signed by the President.
People who are found to be guilty of violating the laws of that regulation would face various punishments also spelt out in the law.
“Now, for us to effectively get the benefits of data protection regulation, it is we who suffer a data breach that should raise issues about the data controller.
“That regulation has various components that address personally identifiable data, that your personal identifiable data should not be used by the data custodians. That is, whoever you give your data to, your consent should be sought before that data is used.
“If consent is not sought and data is used you have the right to use contents of the regulation and press charges against the data controller.
“For us to achieve that there’s compliance mechanism under the data protection regulation that various institutions can register with NITDA to pursue that the aspect of it. When you have such problem, you should contact the certified bodies to help you seek redress .
Another data expert, Mrs. Olatokunbon Oyeleye, added that the best way to fight cyber crimes, is for people to be aware of what data is.
For her, people-centred data protection can only be effective when people are aware of the roles they have to play.
She is worried that a lot of people put out information carelessly online, and click on popping up options without reading or knowing what they are all about.
She advised: “We need to be mindful of what we say yes to.
If you Google, you will be amazed at the information you find about yourself that you never knew when you pushed them out
Barrister Emmanuel Edet, who represented the Ministry of Justice at the event, said the legal aspect is that the constitution guarantees people’s privacy in Nigeria.
He said: “One of the things the constitution does is make sure that you are entitled to privacy of communication but it goes beyond the privacy of communication.
“It’s important that your data should be protected by service providers to ensure that your identity is not misused, to protect you from illegal transaction and to actually ensure that you give consent to whoever wants to use your data for any purpose.