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OPINION

Securing the citizens' data

Asjadul Kibria | Published: June 28, 2019 21:17:39


Photo: Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP)

During the third week of this month (June), the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) launched a special drive to collect information of the city's residents. Under the title 'Citizen Information Collection Week,' the police have asked the house-owners and tenants to furnish their information in a specific form with photo.  Though the necessity of such a move is understood, a number of things need to be taken care of to avoid breach of citizens' privacy through data leak. 

It was around two years ago, when the DMP first initiated the move to collect information of the residents in the capital city. At the time tenants were the main target and a wrong message was sent to them. Police officials had argued that to check the threat of militancy, they need to collect information of the residents especially tenants. Though information of both house owners and tenants had been collected, it gave an impression of targeting tenants only. Notice boards, 'Give the information of the tenants', are still hanging on the main gates of different houses.

The move was challenged to the High Court on the ground of citizens' privacy breach and the petitioner sought stay order. But the court rejected the petition and thus ultimately provided a legal base of citizens' information collection system.  Since then, collection of citizens' information has been continuing. The DMP has also developed Citizen Information Management System, a digital database to keep records of the residents in Dhaka up-to-date.  

But the DMP itself is to be blamed for some slackness in the process. The DMP chief criticised police officials for not updating the database regularly and accused citizens for non-cooperation. Against the backdrop, the latest move was there to reinvigorate the process. This time, the DMP went for mass campaigning by postering the city walls, miking at different localities and publishing advertisements in the media. A number of processions or rallies also took place to give the info collection week a festive face. The mass campaign contributed to aware citizens and many of those who didn't provide information earlier came up quickly to do the necessary.

Nevertheless, lack of coordination on the part of the DMP created some unnecessary disturbance to a good number of citizens. Many of those who earlier submitted information have again been asked to provide it afresh.  For instance, a new police station in Hatirjheel area could digitally collect the information from the Ramna Police Station as a part of Hatirjheel was earlier under the jurisdiction of  Ramna PS.  Residents of the area who already submitted information to Ramna didn't need to do the same again. Their info should be available in Citizen Management Information System.

In fact, collection of citizens' information should be fully digitalised and there should be option to provide or update information by every resident electronically. The info management system has already generated a unique number for each house owner who has already submitted the info. Thus everyone will get a unique number. Now, the police may hand over the unique number to the respective resident so that he or she could check and update the info. Definitely, there has to be adequate restrictive mechanism so that no one could access the information of others.  Even, only the designated police officers should have access to data base to protect the privacy and security of the residents. As the police department has initiated the process, it is their responsibility to keep the data secured and thus avail the trust of the citizens.

asjadulk@gmail.com

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