Digital Privacy in Africa: Cybersecurity, Data Protection & Surveillance

15 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2018

See all articles by Ewan Sutherland

Ewan Sutherland

University of the Witwatersrand, LINK Centre

Date Written: June 22, 2018


The push in Africa for the widespread adoption of telecommunications and Internet is aimed at boosting economic growth and access to digital government services. However, it has significant effects on privacy by enabling surveillance of the networks, by allowing the collection of data about customers, their locations and transactions, which can be linked to other data and analysed for commercial or governmental purposes. Data can also be stolen or destroyed, by criminals, foreign powers and terrorists. While countries have enthusiastically created telecommunications regulatory authorities, they have only rarely created data protection authorities to oversee well established principles for the collection, use and storage of data. Similarly, they have lagged on the introduction of strategies for cybersecurity and the centres needed to collect data on attacks and defences. Surveillance by secret police has grown in sophistication, with facilities for lawful interception, IMSI-catchers and surveillance RATs, none of which is overseen by parliaments or the courts. Consequently, the rights to dignity and privacy are very poorly observed and more often breached.

Keywords: cybersecurity, data protection, governance, privacy, surveillance

JEL Classification: K12, K22, K23, K29, K42, L84, L86, L88, 032

Suggested Citation

Sutherland, Ewan, Digital Privacy in Africa: Cybersecurity, Data Protection & Surveillance (June 22, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Ewan Sutherland (Contact Author)

University of the Witwatersrand, LINK Centre ( email )

1 Jan Smuts Avenue
Johannesburg, Gauteng 2000
South Africa


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