How FG Could Breach Privacy Laws in a Bid to Curb the Spread of Coronavirus Using Phone Data


Following the recent announcement of 5 new coronavirus cases in Nigeria by the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, the Nigerian government could take more drastic measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 and prevent an outbreak in Africa’s most populous nation.

Nigeria has been on high alert since the first confirmed case. The government has already canceled the national sports festival and disbanded Youth Corp members from the National Youth Service Camps.

Also, succumbing to calls from Nigerians to impose a flight ban, the government has finally placed a travel ban on 13 countries which includes the US, UK, China, Italy, Iran and other are Covid-19 hot zones. This comes after South Africa, Ghana and Kenya placed a flight ban on Europeans due to the rampaging Covid-19 virus.

Curbing the spread of Covid-19 using phone data

The third case of coronavirus was a Nigerian woman who returned to Lagos from the UK on a British Airways flight on Friday 13th March.

There are 8 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Nigeria, 6 are still active

Since the woman landed in Lagos, there is a possibility she has infected any of the 149 other people on the flight or anyone she met from Friday to Tuesday.

There were 150 potentially infected people on the flight that brought in Nigeria’s 3rd Covid-19 case.

The FG could follow the part of Isreal prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu who has authorized the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, to use cellphone location data to help check the spread the virus.

The location data can be used to retrace the movements of individuals who test positive for the virus and identify others who should be quarantined. This means that the Nigerian government could use the data to trace the 149 other people on the flight who came in contact with the infected person and quarantine them.

Although it goes against Nigeria’s privacy laws in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Amended) to use citizens’ personal telephone data, there are bylaws under certain conditions that remove the restriction.

According to section 45 of the constitution, privacy as a constitutional right may be suspended as long as it is reasonably justifiable in the interest of public health or defence.

How FG Could Breach Privacy Laws to Curb the Spread of Covid-19
The federal government is taking measures to curb the spread of coronavirus

While the Israeli prime minister’s announcement is the first high-profile instance of a government using cellphone tracking for public health purposes, the Nigerian government also has the power to take such measures.

The government could greatly speed up the isolation process of patients and ultimately curb the spread by using the information it obtained to direct people who may have come into contact with the virus to quarantine themselves immediately via text message or calls.

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