The United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Privacy, Professor Joseph A. Cannataci, has advised the Data Protection Commission (DPC) to take necessary measures to ensure people's data is not abused.
He said data was a valuable asset that could be abused knowingly or unknowingly, hence safeguards should be in place so that the citizenry would be assured that their personal information were being rightfully used.
Prof. Cannataci said this in an interview with the Ghanaian Times on the sidelines of the opening of the first African Region Data Protection and Privacy conference in Accra on Tuesday.
The four-day conference, which is being attended by heads of data protection agencies and experts from the African continent and beyond, was organised by the DPC in partnership with the Network of African Data Protection Authorities.
It was also to mark an important milestone in the roadmap toward promoting the enactment of data protection and privacy laws in Africa.
According to Prof. Cannataci, it was laudable that the use of mobile phones to access the internet was on the increase, making it easy for people to communicate irrespective of distance, but it was important for them to know how data was being used by both private and government agencies.
He urged Ghana to align itself to standards such as Convention 108 which protects individuals with regard to automatic processing of personal data and protects their right to privacy, in view of the increasing flow across frontiers of personal data currently available.
"I very much encourage the government of Ghana to do like other African governments like Morocco, Cape Verde and Senegal and join this international club which makes you conversant with the most modern standards in privacy and data protection," he added.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Privacy said data protection and privacy in Africa was growing but at a slow pace explaining that African countries were very much into all forms of technology, but finding it very difficult to keep with other European countries.
"It is not easy for legislators to keep up with all the technologies but have to make pragmatic efforts to ensure that they safeguard the information of their citizens," he stated.
The Executive Director of the DPC, Ms Patricia Adusei-Poku said the conference was to find ways that Africa would rise to the challenge of data protection as a fundamental human right.
She said the event which started on Monday was to begin the discussion on how to enact more data protection laws across the continent and also enforce a standardised approach on the continent.
According to Ms Adusei-Poku, protecting personal data was critical to fundamental human rights, stressing that data in the wrong hands could cause serious harm and damage.
She urged African countries to pass the data protection laws in their countries to safeguard the personal information of their citizens.