Olaoluwa Oni Blog Post

Olaoluwa Oni

Information Privacy Law

Professor Ira Rubinstein

March 27, 2017

Between Etisalat Nigeria and Facebook Inc: The fate of Nigerians’ Right to Privacy.

Etisalat Nigeria, a telecommunications service provider, recently released a new data plan tagged “Facebook Flex” that permits its subscribers access to Facebook “free of charge”. According to press release which describes the company as the “most customer- friendly telecommunications company”, Etisalat is “treating its customers with another innovative service to stay connected with their friends and families on Facebook and access to other basic internet services at absolutely no cost.”; the press statements were sponsored by Etisalat.

The Director of Mobile Partnerships and Alliances at Facebook, Francisco Varela, also commented: “We are excited to partner with Etisalat to help improve connectivity among different communities of people across Nigeria by bringing access to Facebook and other basic internet services, like news, education and health information to people free of charge.”

However, contrary to the representations by the two companies, the Etisalat Facebook flex plan is not provided “at absolutely no cost” or “free of charge.” Subscribers are, without their knowledge, required to trade in their constitutionally guaranteed privacy rights for the bits and bytes it takes to access Facebook.

Section 37 of the Nigerian Constitution protects the rights of Nigerian citizens to the privacy of their communication.  The Constitution stipulates that: “The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversation, and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected.”

Etisalat’s privacy policy is structured as a Contract of Adhesion, and its customers are not even required to indicate their acceptance of the website and online services Terms of Use (which contains the privacy policy) prior to subscription to the company’s services. The Terms of Use are not readily available to mobile users and have to be specifically searched for by website users. Accordingly, it is highly probable that Etisalat subscribers (who range from the educated to very illiterate) are unaware of the privacy policy of the company. The company ascribes to itself the right to collect and share intimately personal information of its subscribers “to conclude contracts and enable administration and management of services or products to which you intend to or have subscribed.” The privacy policy also provides that “the type of information collected will depend on the nature of the product or service demanded.” As such, Etisalat has now acquired the right to share intimate and personal information of its users to Facebook; Facebook is a company anchored largely on trading personally identifiable data.

Etisalat and Facebook’s collaboration acts to deprive Nigerian citizens of the most basic of human entitlements, and this violation is dressed up as beneficial to the victims. Even more, Etisalat Nigeria lays claim to vast entitlements from its Nigerian subscribers that are markedly different from the more protective privacy policy afforded its Saudi Arabia subscribers; Etisalat is headquartered in Saudi Arabia.

Etisalat customers are being encouraged to subscribe to a plan that exposes them online, in a way that the customers could not have contemplated, let alone acquiesced to. This sort of deceptive practice emphasizes the dangers of a reality where technology is in on the rise, especially in a developing country where the literacy levels leave much to be desired.

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.bellanaija.com/2017/02/etisalat-launches-facebook-flex-which-gives-free-facebook-access-to-etisalat-subscribers/
  2. http://etisalat.com.ng/website-online-services-terms-of-use/
  3. http://www.etisalat.ae/en/generic/terms-and-conditions.jsp
  4. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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