Can the social contract theory justify data rights violations? A review of South Africa's contact tracing regulations

 

Publication date: 
June 2020
Author: 
Rumbidzai Matamba and Chenai Chair
Publisher: 
APC

We are slowly becoming aware of the proliferation of our data by different companies and entities across different sectors due to a data “spillage” as we access the digital conveniences and necessities of the world that we live in today.

These companies and entities range from advertising, insurance, banking, and even government sectors. Companies and entities that have a significant influence on our quality of life, how we navigate the world today and how we are treated politically, socially and economically. While acknowledging that a simple search for the price of a laptop will result in being hounded by various laptop manufacturers and vendors, and having, inadvertently, let this become a running joke of the 21st century, we were not prepared for governments to utilise our data without our consent and to not have any legal recourse to this obvious violation of our right to privacy, as it is espoused in different international legal instruments and Principle 9 of the African Declaration of Internet Rights and Freedoms.

The current pandemic has resulted in a need for solutions to “flatten the curve”, including lockdowns and digital solutions such as contact tracing. The latter raises questions on the balance of privacy rights with public health data. This essay employs the use of the South African government’s contact tracing initiatives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and some public perceptions on these initiatives to assess whether the social contract theory can be employed as a tool to justify privacy violations for public health.

Read the full paper here.
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