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Tread cautiously with publication of names, data expert tells EC

A data protection expert, Kwame Antwi, cautions the Electoral Commission against publishing names of voters in the newspapers

Kwame Manu Antwi, a data protection expert, has said the Electoral Commission (EC) must tread cautiously in publishing the particulars of voters in the upcoming 7 December elections.

The Commission over the weekend came under heavy public backlash for allegedly publishing details of voters including their phone numbers and age in a bid to deepen transparency.

Speaking to Kojo Mensah on The Asaase Breakfast Show, Antwi said sharing such information with political parties is allowed, but not to a third party.

“So, your age is one of the key privacy data for every person and for that reason the Data Protection Act has been established for individuals to protect such information and only to be shared on need-to-know basis, therefore if I go to any organisation and provide that information, I am doing that for specific reasons,” he said.

Antwi added: “And if I do that the data controller (eg Electoral Commission) only share it to the people who are related in that particular endeavour, ie, political parties. Any third-party transfer of such data infringes on that particular law, it could be used for anything because we are in a digital world and it could be used against you.”

He maintained that the EC must seek the approval of the persons involved if it really wants to publish their names in the newspapers in a bid to deepen transparency.

“It’s simple, the Data Protection Act mandates the EC to only use the data it has collected for its intended purpose and for that matter elections. And it will also [give them] to relevant stakeholders such as the political parties.

“However, if it comes to a third party, which means publishing in newspapers or any other forum then I think the express permission of the people involved must be sought.”

Speaking on the same show, the executive director for the Jatikay Centre for Human Security and Peace Building, Adib Saani, argued the EC’s decision rather deepens transparency in the electoral process.

“I am sure it is part of the EC to not give anyone a reason to discount the credibility of the process, so in as much as we are concerned about people’s privacy, we should also be much concerned about the electoral process.”

Fred Dzakpata

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