DPC poised to ensure Data Controllers remains accountable to their Data Subjects

Patricia Adusei-Poku, Commissioner and Executive Director of the Commission
Patricia Adusei-Poku, Commissioner and Executive Director of the Commission

It will be recalled that The University of Ghana School of Public Health had commenced a research study known as the Accra Urban Adolescent Nutrition study which was made public in October 2021.

The study sought to describe the nutritional status, dietary intake, physical activity patterns, and food environment of about 1,000 Data Subjects (adolescent children from low- and middleclass households in 10 selected neighborhoods in the Greater Accra Region).

The Data Subjects were from communities in Chorkor, Abelemkpe, South La, New Mamprobi, Achimota, Old Nungua, West Legon, Kokomlemle, New Town, and Nungua.

As part of the process to collect the data, the Data Subject were required to wear a fixed belt with an accelerometer and GPS that will track their physical activity and movement trajectories over the period of the study.

The research met the distress and concerns of additional Data Subjects (teachers, parents and the general public) due to the intrusive and highly sensitive nature of the data processing of the children.

The data set included blood samples, GPS location, nutritional data and other personal data. In alignment with the National Digitization efforts by the Ministry of Communication and Digitization under the leadership of Hon.

Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, the Data Protection Commission investigated the concerns of the general public and it was established that the University of Ghana was not in good standing with the Commission as a Data Controller.

Also the University had breached the contract with their international Sponsor-International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) which had directed the university to comply with their jurisdictional Data Protection legal requirements.

The Data Protection Commission in accordance with its mandate under the Data Protection Act 2012 (Act843) section 2 (a) issued the following directives to the University of including the research team of the Accra Urban Adolescent Nutrition study to;
1. Halt the study with immediate effect in accordance with section 75,

2. Register with the Data Protection Commission of Ghana in accordance with section 46 (3),

3. Notify their International Sponsors of the breach in accordance with section 31,

4. Conduct a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) to ascertain potential risks and show mitigation measures in accordance with section 28 (2),

5.Train at least One staff in charge of clearing such projects to become a Certified Data Protection Supervisor to oversee the implementation of privacy programs and as well train all relevant staff of their ethics committee heading such projects in accordance with section 58.

The Commission has followed steadily the progress being made by the University and can confirm that the University has made great efforts towards being accountable to the public.

They have started the compliance journey by registering with the Data Protection Commission and have currently trained one staff as their Data Protection Supervisors as required by law.

Today we are stating emphatically that the Commission is not positioned to disable research or stand in the way of academia.

Instead, the Commission is poised to ensure that every Data Controller processes personal data appropriately and remains accountable to their Data Subjects by respecting their rights in a manner that is in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2012 (Act 843).

We implore all universities in Ghana to take notice of this and take the important step to register with the Commission and follow due process by complying with their legal obligation under Act843 which is emphatic on the use of appropriate technologies and organizational measures to secure personal data.

However, government Ministries, Public Sector Authorities and Industry Bodies are advised to refer projects involving the processing of personal data to the Data Protection Commission for clearance prior to commencement.

Should any Data Subject feel in distress, as a result of improper handling of their personal Data, they should send an email to annamaria.nyame@dataprotection.

This was contained in a release from the DPC, signed by Mrs. Patricia Adusei-Poku, the Commissioner and Executive Director of the Commission and copied to News Ghana.

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