Justice Prof Date-Bah (4th from right), Board Chairman, Africa Digital Right Hub, with Teki Akuetteh (3rd from right), Executive Director, Africa Digital Right Hub; Awo Aidam Amenyah (2nd from left), Executive Director, Child Online Africa, and some participants after launching the Young People, Privacy and Trust in Ghana Report in Accra. Picture: ELVIS NII NOI DOWUONA
Justice Prof Date-Bah (4th from right), Board Chairman, Africa Digital Right Hub, with Teki Akuetteh (3rd from right), Executive Director, Africa Digital Right Hub; Awo Aidam Amenyah (2nd from left), Executive Director, Child Online Africa, and some participants after launching the Young People, Privacy and Trust in Ghana Report in Accra. Picture: ELVIS NII NOI DOWUONA

Protect digital privacy of youth - Study advocates

A report on research on young people and their privacy in internet use has recommended that transparency and meaningful consent on how their data is collected and used be greatly improved.

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Also, the report has recommended that authorities prevent excessive sharing or selling of the data of young people, end targeted advertising to the youth,  ensure strong data security, as well as guarantee that less data is collected about them and same deleted when not needed.

The report follows a research on how the internet and digital privacy were impacting young people, who because of access to technology, were spending more time on the internet.

Conducted by a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Africa Digital Rights Hub (ADRH), the research was aimed at assessing the knowledge and concerns of young people concerning their digital privacy.

The report was launched by the ADRH, in collaboration with Child Online Africa and funded by the Internet Society Foundation.

Research

A focus group of 21 young people aged 13 to 17 across Accra and an additional 101 respondents from different economic backgrounds were the respondents in the research.

They were asked about their views on online privacy, their trust in the technology that collects their data and how their privacy online could be improved.

Launching the report in Accra, the Board Chair of ADRH and a Retired Supreme Court Judge, Justice Professor Date-Bah, said the research was part of an international research effort where similar national research was done in Antigua and Barbuda, Australia and Slovenia.

From the survey, he said children had nuanced understanding about privacy and were also not sure if their privacy was respected in the digital world.

Prof. Date-Bah said the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, all recognised that children had the right to be free from arbitrary interference with their privacy.

Data privacy

Also in Ghana, the Data Protection Act, 2012 (Act 843) under Section 37(1) restricted the processing of personal data of children by designating their information as special personal data.

However, he said the country was still experiencing a significant increase in the data footprints of children, without the requisite protections necessary.

“There is the need to increase awareness of children's privacy and how to protect it.

Policymakers and public officials need to engage more with children on issues of online privacy,” he said.

The Executive Director of Child Online Africa, Awo Aidam Amenyah, said the young children had expressed the belief that inappropriate content came to them because they were not recognised as consumers on the internet.

She said they wanted the algorithms to be changed in a way that could reflect their needs in the internet space.

She stressed that the Data Protection Commission must review the Data Protection Law, as there was just one mention of the protection of children in the law.

“Clearly, it has almost zero child focus but we need to go back to that document and look at how we can tune it to reflect the needs of children and young people,” she said.

The Executive Director of ADRH, Teki Akuetteh, made a clarion call on policymakers and agencies required to protect children and their online activities to do better.

She said they would continue to throw more light on such issues and get authorities to pay more attention to children and the privacy of data protection in the country.

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