On Saturday, Nigeria’s largest electorate will vote in an election that some experts fear could lead to a mass breach of privacy, as voters are required to provide personal data such as facial recognition, fingerprints, ID cards, and mobile numbers.
While this system is aimed at curbing electoral fraud, critics argue that it could lead to tens of millions of Nigerians being exposed to identity theft, fraudsters, or state surveillance.
Amnesty International researcher Matt Mahmoudi warns that facial recognition systems are “tools of mass surveillance” that could be used by the government to target activists and campaigners during protests after an election.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has assured Nigerians that their information is safe and not shared with any political parties or anyone else, and urged them to report any suspicious activity.
The voter register, which contains tens of millions of names, addresses, dates of birth, job details, phone numbers, and biometrics, is the largest database of its kind in Africa.
During this two-stage voting process, electoral officers will collect another round of face and fingerprint data from voters at tens of thousands of polling stations.
Critics have already reported receiving targeted phone calls from party operatives attempting to bribe or persuade voters, and privacy advocates have expressed concern that the government is using this cloak of “free and fair elections” to collect data without first establishing the efficacy of the technology.