South Africa: COVID-19, Cellphone Location Tracking and Contradictory Security Response

analysis

How has the government's position on cellphone tracking evolved, what do the regulations say, how do government's plans measure up to international best and worst practices, and what do these intentions tell us about how democratic or autocratic government's response is to the pandemic?

Ever since the lockdown began in South Africa, I have been tracking the government's evolving positions on using cellphone tracking in the fight against Covid-19. It hasn't been easy obtaining information about exactly what their intentions are.

Initially, it seemed as if the government was intending to use aggregate location data to map trends in the spread of the virus. The Minister of Communications announced this intention at a security cluster briefing on 25 March. In it, she said that the cellphone industry has agreed to provide data analytics to track how many people are affected in a particular area.

However, her statement didn't provide much clarity on exactly what they would be providing. Since then, the government has elaborated on their intentions, notably through revised regulations published by the Ministry of Cooperative Governance on 2 April.

So how has the government's position on cellphone tracking evolved, what do the regulations say, how do government's plans...

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