Social media, Internet users cautioned on online privacy

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Participants discuss the issue of online privacy during the meeting in Kigali last week. (Michel Nkurunziza)

Information and communication technology experts, web, software, applications, cyber security developers have warned that Internet users, especially social media, risk exposing their online privacy if they are not responsible with their posts, sharing and searches.

Hosting companies have also been urged to mull ways of not disclosing people’s online private information.

These were the messages at online privacy and security conversation initiated by SACRIS technologies, last week, in Kigali.

The discussion focused on ‘how information data is used, who has it, who controls it and where’ during data mining by the hosting companies.

“The issue is to know the information we share, where does it go, who uses it, how can it be protected by hosting companies, are the companies also allowed to look at them?” said Saleh Ssennyonjo, from SACRIS technologies.

Participants called for a regulatory framework on who uses information and its accessibility by protecting privacy, while some developers suggested that local platforms and applications avoid privacy crossing borders into other countries.

“When you search on Google in Rwanda, it is simple for outside engine owners to track what you search regularly and discover your characteristics and other secrets. For example, they might know that your daughter is pregnant because that girl always searches in Google pregnancy-related information to feed her behaviour or to teach her to behave when they become pregnant,” said Ssennyonjo.

However, other ICT experts say it might be expensive for locals, besides not having local content.

“More than 70 per cent of Rwandan readers depend on websites abroad, we have to first increase local content,” Fiacre Mushimire, an app developer and cyber security expert, said.

Others argued that even with local platforms, it is still not proper to share private information on local platform-as each has personal information that needs privacy.

With this complexity of the issue, IT experts urged Internet users to be responsible on their shared information or what they search for but also urged hosting companies to promote privacy as a fundamental right.

The discourse also heard that some people infringe on privacy under the pretence of security reasons.

Talking of benefits of using ‘.rw’ domain, Ghislain Nkeramugaba, the chief executive of Rwanda Information Communication Technology Association (RICTA), said it is related to security issues because it is quick in loading pages, promotes local content and is more reliable compared .com domain which is generic.

With .rw, you can call the local hosting company in case there are issues and it makes Rwanda identify with the global trend, he said.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw