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Privacy activists lament after biometrics are used at Nigerian polls

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Digital rights activists have raised concerns over the security of the biometric data collected during the recent general election in Nigeria where millions of Nigerians registered and voted.

Biometric data was submitted for voter registration and was also required to verify voters at polling stations using the Biometric Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) gadgets.

In an article published by Reuters, AI and human rights researcher at Amnesty International Matt Mahmoudi expressed concerns about the security of the biometric data stored by the Independent National Election Commission (INEC). He noted that the data could be exploited by the government for mass surveillance and for other potentially illegal things.

Hackers could use the data for identity theft, according to Mahmoudi, who insisted that facial biometric systems by design allow mass surveillance. He also called for other methods to prevent electoral fraud.

To support the arguments, the article cited the case of Babajide Briggs, a voter who received a call from a woman who claimed to be an official of the All Progressives Congress (APC) party a few days before the election held last Saturday.

The caller knew his name and where he would vote.

As quoted in the Reuters article, Briggs said: “She knew my name on my voter’s card, where I would vote. How did she get that personal information?”

Mahmoudi further noted that Nigeria lacks a personal data protection law, making it hard for citizens who feel their data privacy rights have been violated to sue.

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