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Legislation urgently needed to guide privacy on Internet

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A lady uses her credit card online. There is a need for a legal framework in Africa to protect access and use of private information online. Photo/FOTOSEARCH

A lady uses her credit card online. There is a need for a legal framework in Africa to protect access and use of private information online. Photo/FOTOSEARCH 

By Mbugua Njihia

Posted  Wednesday, January 30   2013 at  17:47

In Summary

  • When does the use of personally identifiable information become invasive when juxtaposed against convenience or are we just causing a furore over something that in all truth has never quite existed?
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We live in a global village, but in this modern interpretation of the concept, we are seemingly resistant to all things that made the “traditional” village appealing and warm.

In the traditional village, we were all in each other’s business in a good way that can only be informed by a fabric or trust and awareness that delivered a more cohesive society.

Welcome the digital age and the adoption of this global village concept where we love to share what we are doing via the Internet or conduct transactions that are necessary for daily living through numerous channels and tools made available by online stores, banks and mobile money platforms.

Consumers increasingly place a premium on their time resulting to the convenience factor emerging as a key deliverable to any service offering a company would wish to deliver.

At the point of interaction, consumers easily give away personal information and in return expect speedy or even automated service delivery that frees up more time to attend to other matters.

However, when later confronted with the reality of the depth of information shared across different service providers many of whom the consumers have no knowledge of their data policies, many will cringe at the level of “exposure”.

At an informal forum I shared my thoughts on the myth of privacy, using cases on how a change of mindset on what we consider private will allow us to fully embrace data sharing on a personal level, of course within legal confines and in a metered way that would protect against abuse.

I challenged some to attempt a week in offline mode, where they would not use any service that requires the use of personally identifiable information.

Reality hits home when you discover how intertwined you are with technology in its invisible state.

You may argue that ages ago, life continued without the use of what we seemingly can’t live without. Question is; what can we do now that they couldn’t and what is the value differential?

Yes, we need the legal framework created to govern the use of such data, more so in Africa where I am yet to stumble upon a comprehensive document on legislation that protects consumers in a way that, for example, the EU would put to task a juggernaut like Google if they believe they are abusing their position as custodians of personal data.

When does the use of personally identifiable information become invasive when juxtaposed against convenience or are we just causing a furore over something that in all truth has never quite existed or we are placing too much value upon?

Are you better known or unknown?

Njihia is CEO of Symbiotic.
Twitter - @mbuguanjihia