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SS-ICT4D Week 2018

Monday, April 02, 2018

Cambridge Analytica scandal: CSEAN urges NASS to investigate Facebook, enact data protection law

The CyberSecurity Experts Association of Nigeria (CSEAN) has urged the National Assembly (NASS) to investigate the ongoing scandal of data-mining by Facebook and Cambridge Analytica as revealed by a whistle-blower, Christopher Wylie, reports ITRealms.

CSEAN also NASS to as matter of urgency, enact data protection law, according to its President, Mr. Remi Afon, at the weekend.

He told ITRealms that CSEAN is highly concerned at the news that millions of Nigerians data were allegedly harvested from Facebook and used in a targeted online campaign with the aim of influencing the outcome of 2015 election.

He noted that Cambridge Analytica, the analytics and marketing firm based in United Kingdom (UK) has been implicated in this scandal that also involved allegation of hacking of President Muhammadu Buhari’s email who was at that time the Presidential Candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC).

The firm was allegedly paid £2 million ($2.8 million) by an unnamed Nigerian billionaire to “orchestrate a ferocious campaign” against President Muhammadu Buhari.

While it is now becoming common to use data analytic software to perform targeted online marketing campaign, CSEAN President noted that the recent revelation by Christopher Wylie the whistle-blower and former research director for Cambridge Analytical, is to say the least worrisome.

Wylie alleged while testifying before a committee of British Parliament that an Israeli company called Black Cube was engaged to hack private health data from President Muhammadu Buhari email.

ITRealms gathered that Black Cube has however debunked this assertion, while AggregateIQ (AIQ) a software development firm based in Canada was said to have handled the hacked data and also distributed threatening anti-Islamic videos that showed people’s throats being cut in an effort to intimidate voters and dissuade Nigerians from voting during the 2015 presidential election.

According to Wylie the “AIQ was handed material about Nigeria from Cambridge Analytica to distribute online - that is distribution of kompromat (compromising material) and of incredibly threatening and violent video content,”  AggregateIQ has meanwhile denied this allegation.

CSEAN president, equally noted that the Facebook Chief Executive Officer (CEO) has taken out a full-page advert in some selected print media in the United States (US) and UK to apologise for the Cambridge Analytica scandal but despite Nigeria being also a victim of the misuse of data, no such apology has been tendered in Nigeria.

“Such is the kind of treatment Nigeria has always received and will continue until we begin to hold organisations accountable for personal data of Nigerians they hold. While UK and US are busy investigating the key actors in this scandal, Nigeria is yet to react officially,” he said.

In order to continue to give Nigerian citizens assurance that their data will be managed securely and safely by organisations that hold and process their personal data, CSEAN therefore call on National Assembly as a matter of urgency to initiate robust investigation of Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, AggregateIQ and Black Cube to ascertain whether Nigerian Cyber Crime law has been breached and also look at the present gaps in the law with the aim of enacting a strong data protection law.  As 2019 general election is fast approaching, we will continue to witness online targeting using social media to influence voters.

“The time has come for the Federal Government to set up a Cyber Security Unit that will have capability of defending government systems from cyber threats and provide support to the existing security agencies in terms of cybersecurity investigations,” he said.

CSEAN, Mr. Afon said, has put together a technical session and table-top  exercise during its forth coming Cyber Secure Nigeria 2018 Conference scheduled to take place in Lagos on the 9-10th May 2018, to discuss “Election Manipulation Using Social Media Data to target Nigerians in 2019”.

A communique, he said, will be issued at the end of the conference and shared with relevant authorities, which has the theme for this year as “Mitigating Cyber Threats in Digital Age”.


Chuks Egbune/GEE

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