Privacy, the right to determine what information you make available to others and which you don’t, I can argue is part of being human. As previously discussed with Murray Hunter ( one of the leading voices on digital privacy and free speech in South Africa), it is a great part of human self-determination.

I could even go on to argue that privacy became a very important human right as soon as we discovered clothes (to cover our “private parts”).

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a historic document that was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly at its third session on 10 December 1948. Article 12 of the document covers privacy as a human right. 📷 Eleanor Roosevelt with the English language version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It goes beyond that. In many countries around the world, privacy is also guaranteed in the constitution. In South Africa for example, section 14 of the country’s constitution specifies that everyone in the country has a right to privacy.

The right to privacy is also covered in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights:

“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” - Article 12 of the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights.

However, it is one thing to have a right guaranteed by law and another to enforce that. With the advent of the Internet and smartphones, with have observed and participated as many apps and platforms continue to covertly collect all sorts of personal information about us without even any consent.

Take the example of the popular Truecaller app, the caller ID, and call-blocking app, for example. Have you ever wondered how your telephone number is available on Truecaller despite you not having ever installed the app? Despite you not having ever used the app, as soon as you call a Truecaller user, your telephone number appears on their screen along with your name. This is possible because one of the ways Truecaller collects data to populate their database is through what they call “permission based” crowdsourcing. This is a process where, anyone who installs their app also has an option that gives the Truecaller app the option to upload their entire address book to the Truecaller database.

This, as you can see, is a violation of your privacy. Truecaller is not the only app that does this, many others do similar but it doesn’t make it right.

This is why the announcement by South Africa’s President today is important, i.e. the country’s Protection of Personal Information Act will soon be enforceable starting from 1 July 2020. Even more important is that South Africa has experienced a rising number of data breaches and leaks in recent years with no consequences for those responsible. When you observe this, you can see some correlation between the data breaches and the rising number of identity theft incidents as well.

Hopefully organizations operating in South Africa will start taking the protection of our personal information more seriously.

Quote of the day

“The sections which will commence on 1 July 2020 are essential parts of the Act and comprise sections which pertain to, amongst others, the conditions for the lawful processing of personal information;” (Tweet this)

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