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Interview with Ridwan Oloyede

How can the right to privacy in Article 12 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights be protected and enforced in countries that do not have national privacy frameworks?


Ridwan Oloyede: That would really be a difficult country to live in. It is quite tricky because privacy ranks high up there with other human rights. It helps safeguard other rights like expression, dignity of human person, association and even movement. Countries without privacy protection, either in their constitution or in a specific law leave their citizens vulnerable to immeasurable levels of risk. Privacy violation exist in countries with strong laws, it gets worse in countries with none. There are, however, situations where the right to privacy is guaranteed in the Constitution of such a country, but they fail to have a specific law or privacy or data protection – which is the case in a number of African countries. The trend observed is that people approach the national court using the constitutional right to privacy broadly or, in the event the country is a party to a regional instrument, approach such regional court to enforce the right.


In light of the track and trace measures being implemented in many countries, how can privacy- respecting track and trace systems be designed and implemented in an African context, considering the lack of access to technological devices?


Ridwan Oloyede: We cannot develop an efficient track and trace ignoring our reality. Wide digital divide and access is still a big problem on the continent. A contact tracing system that ignores that is bound to fail. The next questions will be whether the centralised or decentralised model is best and if it is voluntary. In our context, a decentralised model will come close to taking cognisance of our reality or, a model that could possibly do away with capturing any personal data. The use of the app should be voluntary and the design should acknowledge the principles of data protection and respect human rights. There are African countries that have adopted contract tracing like Ghana and Botswana. In Botswana, the government made it compulsory and uses a centralised model. Botswana has a Data Protection Act but is yet to set up a supervisory authority, it could be dangerous, with limited avenues for transparency and accountability. Finally, I think contact tracing is an important aspect of epidemic responses, but it is not a stand-alone solution, it should be augmented with efficient physical tracing.


To what extent can African privacy-law frameworks be harmonised post COVID-9 to