Privacy in Nigeria: Unborn Tomorrow, Dead Yesterday

Privacy in Nigeria: Unborn Tomorrow, Dead Yesterday

When evil people do bad things in America, U.S. law enforcement agencies ask companies like Apple to help them unlock the phones to support their investigations, in occasions where the bad people are dead. Going to the equipment manufacturers is necessary because they are the makers of the products, and can help to unlock the devices, without destroying the data in them.

This is necessary because telecom companies like Verizon and Sprint do not warehouse fingerprint and facial images of American citizens. The best data they have are social security numbers (like Nigeria’s National Identity Number from the National Identity Management Commission) and date of birth with the usual fields (addresses, names, etc).

But in Nigeria, the telcos have everything including facial images, fingerprint and anything you can imagine. So if a dead terrorist’s phone is to be unlocked, Nigerian government can ask the telcos to help. They do not have to crack the phone. That is not necessary since they did not make the phones. They just pull the biometrics to unlock the phones. Every mobile subscriber in Nigeria surrenders biometrics data for the opportunity to be assigned a mobile line.

I think it will be possible to unlock iPhone X via a life-size screen of a stored human face. Also for the Touch ID, one can use a stored fingerprint to do the same, by tricking the iPhone to unlock, using the owner’s biometrics.

American investigators do not have these biometrics data about their citizens. But their Nigerian counterparts do. And when everything fails, it is safe to expect them to take the iPhone X and point to the face of a dead terrorist to unlock it. The same can be done via fingerprint also. Ethics be damned; that is the world we live right now.

I am really concerned on the state of privacy and how it is evolving in Nigeria. Sure, government has been pushing hard due to many bad actors but that does not mean that the nation does not need a national data policy. Having biometrics of citizens in private company vaults is terrifying


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