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Report points out personal data protection lapses in Botswana

Report points out personal data protection lapses in Botswana

The government of Botswana has been told to strengthen the country’s porous personal data protection legal framework to address major concerns about biometric data security.

The recommendation is contained in a paper published by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) which outlines steps needed to improve the security of citizens’ biometric data in the Southern African country.

The country has a personal data protection law put in place in 2018 but its enforcement has since remained weak and ineffective, leading to instances of data theft, state surveillance, financial fraud, and other data-related crimes.

The paper, first published as an editorial for online publication, Southern Africa Digital Rights, makes a whirlwind scrutiny of biometric data security difficulties in the country, and suggests a wide range of remedial measures.

It is mentioned in the report that Botswana has over the years required biometric data not only for the national ID card known locally as “Omang,” but also for other processes such as the registration of SIM cards and the obtention of biometric passports which all require the capture and retention of biometric data.

The research reveals that while much biometric data is needed for such purposes, “the human rights approach in the collection of biometric data is lacking” as most of the time, data subjects to not get adequate explanation about how their data is used or managed by entities such as banking institutions.

Despite these institutions publishing their privacy statements, citizen still wield “limited influence” over “the destination of their personal data” and also show a lot of ignorance about the way their data is held, the report notes.

Such concerns about data misuse in Botswana were fueled during the COVID pandemic with incidents of data theft, the paper indicates, mentioning fears about data being used by the state for surveillance purposes.

Moving forward, the report calls on the government in Gaborone to reinforce the implementation of the data protection legislation, and work towards developing a comprehensive Biometric Data Protection Act which factors in the rights of all segments of the population. It also urges the involvement of civil society actors and the general public in this and other law formulation processes aimed at keeping people’s data safe and secure.

Last year, a different report found issues with Tanzania’s own data protection system, which is what later probably contributed to the country establishing a data protection commission.

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