Senegal moves to protect citizens’ personal data

By Issa Sikiti da Silva, Dakar, Senegal

In the face of rising identity fraud and other forms of cybercrime, which continue to destroy lives and affect the continent’s economy, the West African nation of Senegal has launched a major public consultation exercise to seek practical and operational solutions to protect its citizens’ personal information, and promote the development of the digital economy.

The Commission for the Protection of Personal Data (CDP) is currently collecting the views, suggestions and contributions of all the stakeholders to lay urgent guidelines that will help keep people’s personal data safe and secure and out of reach of criminal minds.

The operation, which kicked off on 21 October, will end on 21 November 2014.

Many Senegalese citizens say they continue to be the victims of cybercrime, cyber-bullying and cyber-harassment - scourges that the government-controlled CDP is striving to combat despite funding and expertise challenges.

In 2013, the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received 262,813 consumer complaints which resulted to the loss of US$781.8 million, a 48.8% increase compared to the 2012 loss of US$581.45 million. Senegal, Nigeria, Benin, South Africa and Cameroon are the African countries highly targeted by cybercriminals.

 “Everywhere you go, government agencies and the private sector, including banks and insurance companies, do collect our personal information. I’m worried every time I have to give mine because I don’t know where it will end. But does one have a choice? No, because if you refuse to give it, you won’t be helped,” Khadi Kande said this week in the capital Dakar.

 “How come we continue being victims of identity fraud? We need some guarantees from them about our personal information. I do suspect that some people within the institutions that collect our personal data is passing it off to some criminal syndicates,” Ndiol Ba said.

CDP officials said the consultation will help clarify the legal and operational framework on data storage abroad and in the country and provide practical solutions to support the development of the country’s digital economy, while ensuring respect for every citizen’s privacy in terms of the law on personal information.

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