Understanding Data Privacy Impact Assessments (DPIAs): Legal Requirements And Strategies

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Data is regarded as the new oil with deliberate efforts being made by organizations, individuals, and entities to safeguard personal data.
Nigeria Privacy
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Data is regarded as the new oil with deliberate efforts being made by organizations, individuals, and entities to safeguard personal data. Also, many countries are now enacting data protection legislation to ensure the proper protection of personal data. Nigeria is not left behind in this trend with the enactment of the Nigeria Data Protection Act, 2023 on June 12, 2023.1

In the course of processing personal data or prior to the commencement of processing, there are certain obligations imposed on a data controller, one of which is the conduction of a data privacy impact assessment. Thus, where the processing of personal data may likely result in high risks to the rights and freedoms of the data subject by virtue of the nature, scope, context, and purposes of the processing, a data controller is mandated to, prior to the processing carried out a data privacy impact assessment (DPIA).

It is against this background that this piece aims to examine what a DPIA is, its nature and scope as well as its significance to data controllers in the course or quest to process personal data.2


A DPIA is a process to identify, evaluate, and minimize possible data protection risks in an existing or new business or organizational activity.3 Where the organization intends to embark on a project that would involve the intense use of personal data, a DPIA should be conducted to identify possible areas where breaches may occur and devise a means of addressing such risks. Organizations are expected to conduct a DPIA on their processes, services, and technology periodically to ensure continuous compliance.

A DPIA is defined under the NDPA as a process designed to identify the risks and impacts of the envisaged processing of personal data.4It usually comprises of:

a. A systemic description of the envisaged processing and its purpose, including the legitimate interest pursued by the data controller or third party;

b. An assessment of the necessity and proportionality of the processing in relation to the purposes for which the personal data would be processed;

c. An assessment of the risks to the rights and freedoms of data subjects;

d. The measures envisaged to address the risks, safeguards, security measures, and mechanisms to ensure the protection of personal data.5

A DPIA may be required for the following types of Processing:

a. evaluation or scoring (profiling);

b. automated decision-making with legal or similar significant effects;

c. systematic monitoring;

d. when sensitive or highly Personal Data is involved;

e. when Personal Data Processing relates to vulnerable or differently-abled data subjects; and

f. when considering the deployment of innovative processes or the application of new technological or organizational solutions.1


Implementing DPIAs effectively requires careful planning, coordination, and adherence to best practices. Below are key strategies for data controllers to consider when conducting DPIAs in Nigeria:

1. Establish a DPIA Framework: Develop a standardized DPIA framework outlining the process, criteria, and responsibilities for conducting DPIAs within the organization. Ensure that the DPIA framework aligns with the requirements of the NDPA, NDPR, NDPR Implementation Framework, and international best practices.

2. Identify Data Processing Activities: Begin by identifying all data processing activities within the organization, including the types of personal data collected, the purposes of processing, and the data flows involved. Prioritize data processing activities that pose a high risk to individuals' privacy rights for DPIA assessment.

3. Assess Privacy Risks: Conduct a systematic assessment of privacy risks associated with each data processing activity identified. Consider factors such as the nature, scope, context, and purposes of processing, as well as the potential impact on individuals' rights and freedoms. Use privacy risk assessment tools and methodologies to evaluate and quantify privacy risks effectively.

4. Engage Stakeholders: Ensure active involvement and collaboration with relevant stakeholders throughout the DPIA process, including data protection officers, legal counsel, IT professionals, and business units. Solicit input from stakeholders to identify potential privacy risks, assess the effectiveness of proposed mitigating measures, and gain buy-in for DPIA recommendations. Also, the Nigeria Data Protection Commission (NDPC) must be carried along through the submission of the DPIA.

5. Mitigate Privacy Risks: Develop and implement appropriate measures to mitigate identified privacy risks effectively. These measures may include technical controls, organizational policies and procedures, contractual arrangements, and privacy-enhancing technologies. Ensure that mitigating measures are proportionate, effective, and aligned with the organization's risk appetite and legal obligations.

6. Document and Review DPIAs: Document all aspects of the DPIA process, including the findings, conclusions, and recommendations arising from the assessment. Maintain comprehensive records of DPIAs conducted, including any decisions made and actions taken to address privacy risks. Regularly review and update DPIAs to reflect changes in data processing activities, technologies, and regulatory requirements.


Data Privacy Impact Assessments (DPIAs) are essential tools for organizations seeking to proactively manage privacy risks and ensure compliance with data protection laws and regulations in Nigeria. By conducting DPIAs systematically and comprehensively, organizations can identify, evaluate, and mitigate privacy risks associated with their data processing activities, thereby enhancing trust and confidence among individuals whose personal data they process. By adhering to legal requirements and implementing best practices, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to protecting individuals' privacy rights and fostering a culture of privacy and data protection in Nigeria's evolving digital landscape


1. See generally

1. This follows the earlier Nigeria Data Protection Regulation, 2019 (NDPR) and the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation Implementation Framework, 2020

2. See Section 28 (1) of the Nigeria Data Protection Act, 2023 (NDPA)

3. See paragraph 3.2 (VIII) of the NDPR Implementation Framework, 2020

4. See Section 28 (4) of the NDPA

5. See generally Section 24 (a-d) of the NDPA

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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