FG to Investigate Truecaller For Breaching the Privacy of Nigerians

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The Federal government says it has commenced investigation into the activities of Truecaller App over alleged breach of privacy rights of Nigerians.

This was disclosed on Monday by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in a statement which was published on their Twitter handle.

In a statement endorsed by the Director General/CEO, who could be referred to as the Chief Information Technology Officer of Nigeria, Mr. Kashifu Abdullahi Inuwa,the Agency, said that the investigation is in accordance with Section 6(f) of the NITDA Act 2007.

The section (as referred to) empowers NITDA to render advisory services in all information technology matters to the public and private sectors,

NITDA therefore, said it “wish to inform the public that it commences investigation of the potential breach”.

“Initial findings revealed that the Truecaller Privacy Policy is not in compliance with global laws on data protection and the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) in particular.

“The findings also revealed that there are over seven million Nigerians who are active users of the Service, hence the need to enlighten the public on some of the areas of non-compliance as well as guide those affected.

“The Truecaller Privacy Policy, available HERE, is made of two sets – one for those in the European Economic Area (EEA) and the other for those outside the EEA. Nigeria falls under the second category. Furthermore, every Nigerian user is contracting with Truecaller India.

There are marked differences between both policies.

Critical assessment of the policy revealed non-compliance with the NDPR. Examples of these are outlined below:

1.   Article 1.1 states that ‘Truecaller may supplement the information provided by You with information from third parties and add it to the information provided by You.’

This provision contravenes Article 2.1(b) of the NDPR which requires data collection and processing to be accurate and Article 1.3(iii) which requires that valid consent must be specific. By supplementing the personal information of Nigerians without specific consent and accuracy, they are susceptible to serious invasion of their privacy. This has encouraged unscrupulous persons to continue using Nigerian identities to perpetuate fraud.

2.   Article 1.2 states that ‘When You install and use the Services, Truecaller will collect personal information from You and any devices You may use in Your interaction with our Services. This information may include e.g.: geo-location; Your IP address; device ID or unique identifier; device manufacturer and type; device and hardware settings; SIM card usage; applications installed on your device; ID for advertising; ad data, operating system; web browser; operator; IMSI; connection information; screen resolution; usage statistics; default communication applications; access to device address book; device log and event information; logs, keywords and meta data of incoming and outgoing calls and messages; version of the Services You use and other information based on Your interaction with our Services such as how the Services are being accessed (via another service, web site or a search engine); the pages You visit and features you use on the Services; the services and websites You engage with from the Services; content viewed by You, content You have commented on or sent to us and information about the ads You see and/or engage with; the search terms You use; order information and other usage activity and data logged by Truecaller’s servers from time to time’.

The above provision of the Truecaller Privacy Policy is clearly excessive and invasive of the privacy of its users. Article 2.3(2)d of the NDPR provides – when assessing whether consent is freely given, utmost account shall be taken of whether the performance of a contract, including the provision of a service, is conditional on consent to the processing of Personal Data that is not necessary (or excessive) for the performance of that contract.

Contrary to the expectation of many users, the Truecaller service collects far more information than it needs to provide its primary service.

3.   Article 3 states that ‘Truecaller may also share personal information with third party advertisers, agencies and networks. Such third parties may use this information for analytical and marketing purposes.’

It is global best practice for Users to be informed of the possible third-party processors’ information may be shared with and for what purpose. This Policy flaunts this rule which is also enunciated in the NDPR. 

“The foregoing are samples of the many illegitimate provisions found in the Truecaller Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. The implications of these are far-reaching.

“The provisions of the policy can be exploited to put many Nigerians in unsavoury conditions. In view of this, we urge all Nigerians to take advantage of Article 4 of the Truecaller Privacy Policy which provides – “If any persons do not wish to have their names and phone numbers made available through the Enhanced Search or Name Search functionalities, they can exclude themselves from further queries by notifying Truecaller via its website at www.truecaller.com or as set forth in the contact details below…” Members of the public may also decide to delist themselves from the Truecaller Service completely.

“NITDA would like to assure Nigerians that it will continue to monitor the activities of digital service providers with a view to ensuring that the rights of Nigerians are not unduly breached while also improving the operational environment to support ethical players in their bid to get maximum benefit from Nigeria”, the statement reads.

The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) is a Federal Government Agency under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Communications. NITDA is established in April 2001 to implement the Nigerian Information Technology Policy as well as coordinate general IT development and regulation in the country. Specifically, Section 6(a, b, c, f & m) of the Act mandates NITDA to create a framework for the planning, research, development, standardization, application, coordination, monitoring, evaluation and regulation of Information Technology practices, activities and systems in Nigeria; provide guidelines to facilitate the establishment and maintenance of appropriate infrastructure for information technology and systems application and development in Nigeria for public and private sectors, urban-rural development, the economy and the government; render advisory services in all information technology matters to the public and private sectors and accelerate internet and intranet penetration in Nigeria and promote sound internet Governance by giving effect to the Second Schedule of the Act.

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