• Thursday, July 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

Privacy concerns raised as website trades BVN, NIN for ₦100

With N100, information of Nigerians can be accessed via their NIN and BVN through a website anyverify.com.ng. This raises serious privacy and identity theft concerns as the website doesn’t have any feature showing it belongs to the Nigerian authorities in charge of identity management.

The National Identification Number (NIN) and Bank Verification Number (BVN) are part of Nigerians’ means of transactions for business, official, international and local purposes. These information are private and are not meant to be ‘easily’ accessed by anyone except on demand by security operatives for safety reasons.

As observed by our correspondent, any verify.com.ng shows that to access any information, a user needs to login (if they already have an existing account) or register.

To register, the user input an email which a code would be sent to as part of registration and on the next page of the registration, the code and other information of the user are demanded.

The unauthorised website bragging to hold and provide access to sensitive personal and financial data of Nigerian citizens claims it “provide exceptional services that suit all your needs pertaining to verification services. Millions of customers stick to AnyVerify because of high reliability, lowest cost, excellent support.”

“We provide millions of our users reliable and quickest services to verify people’s identity using their NIN, BVN, International Passport, Driving License, Voter’s Card and do much more,” the we site boasts.

The Foundation for Investigative Journalism had in March revealed XpressVerify, a private website commercialising identification data of Nigerian citizens by trading BVNs, and other other sensitive information.

The Paradigm Initiative, a non-government organisation providing social issues and advocacy, also raised an alarm and called on the Federal Government of the fraudulent and unapproved website from the government agencies database.

It stated that the website AnyVerify.com.ng is into the commercialisation and distribution of personal and private data of Nigerians as low as N100.

“From our research, AnyVerify.com.ng is a website involved in the commercial distribution of personal and private data of Nigerians. On its webpage, a drop-down displaying the myriads of data services which the website renders can be observed. These include personal data such as the NIN, the BVN, a virtual NIN, Driving License, International Passport, Company details, Tax Identification Number, Permanent Voter’s Card and Phone Numbers.

“All these are sold by this website to any interested party for the sum of N100.00 (One Hundred Naira Only) for each data request. This website was visited 567,990 times in February 2024 and 188,360 times in April 2024,” Paradigm Initiative said.

In a statement by the NGO, it labeled the act as an alarming development that presents a major breach of the fundamental rights to privacy, a breach of data privacy rights, and poses significant risks to individuals and the national economy.

“Due to the severe implication for millions of Nigerians, we have through our legal partners, Vindich Legal, served a pre-action notice to the following Government Agencies: National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Nigeria Data Protection Commission, Nigeria Immigration Service, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Central Bank of Nigeria, Independent National Electoral Commission, Federal Road Safety Corps and the office of the Attorney General of the Federation,” it further said.

According to the Paradigm Initiative, the seamless access of personal and sensitive data of Nigerians on the Internet may have an effect on the country’s banking system stability.

The group, while calling on respective government authorities and agencies to be up to its game said the dissemination of Nigerians’ information by the website and any other is an infringement on the privacy of Nigerian which could lead to identity theft, financial fraud, and other malicious activities, including data owners being targeted by burglars, kidnappers or terrorists who buy data that includes home addresses.

It further calls for a swift action on robust data protection laws and stringent enforcement mechanisms to safeguard citizens’ data.

It added, “Fraudulent transactions and identity theft can erode public trust in financial institutions, potentially leading to a financial crisis. This is exacerbated by recent findings of huge losses suffered by financial institutions in Nigeria due to digital manipulation.

“The breach of driver’s licence information and other personal data can compromise national security. Such information can be exploited by criminal elements for unlawful activities, posing a threat to the safety and security of the nation.”

The NIMC, an agency under the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, established by the NIMC Act No. 23 of 2007 with the mandate to establish, own, operate, maintain, and manage the National Identity Database in Nigeria and register persons covered by the Act, is yet to respond or react, give the list of its licensed partners.

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