Rethinking Information Privacy in a “Connected” World

Rethinking Information Privacy in a “Connected” World

Ufuoma Akpojivi (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7113-1.ch001
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The emergence and usage of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) by states, institutions and individuals has challenged and created a shift in the normative idea of privacy from rights to solitude. Consequently, this chapter sought to ascertain if emerging democracies and economies such as South Africa and Nigeria have privacy frameworks that adequately guarantee and protect the privacy of their citizens in this globalized era. Using policy analysis, this chapter argues that although the privacy provisions in South Africa are comprehensive, the privacy framework fails to address the privacy leak associated with the usage of these ICTs. Whereas, in Nigeria, it was observed that the privacy framework is inadequate as there are no specific privacy provisions, thus the assertion that Nigerians have no privacy in this globalized era of connectivity.
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There is no doubt we are living in a global village facilitated by the connectivity of people across the globe with the help of the internet, and this has facilitated the constant sharing and receiving of information amongst individuals and across borders. The African continent is tapping into this connectivity through information communication technologies (ICTs) and smart mobile devices that have helped in bridging the gap in information flow between the global north and south. Consequently, the ever-increasing embrace of ICTs and smart mobile devices in the continent has empowered vast majority of the public to participate in societal discourses (Schmidt and Cohen, 2010). Schmidt and Cohen (2010) while extending this thought, further held that the rise and usage of these information communication technologies across the globe has made us all connected or live in an ‘interconnected estate’. In this ‘interconnected’ estate, ordinary citizens who were once disempowered are now empowered as they can easily access information and participate in both socio-economic and political discourses. However, despite the euphoria of this connected space and the numerous benefits accruable to the development of societies, Assange (2014) warned that there is a serious concern over privacy issues as multinational corporations like Google, nation states, and individuals could easily invade the privacy of others.

For this reason, the issue of privacy has become a salient and controversial debate in this 21st century. Many political, economic and social factors have made the dichotomy between private and public space slim or difficult to distinguish. Politically, many governments with assistance from multinational corporations such as Google, Yahoo, Bing etc. have started monitoring the activities of their citizens online in order to ensure that national security and public lives are not compromised. This process entails the collation and storage of individuals’ data (see Assange, 2014). For instance, the United States and United Kingdom run a mass surveillance program. According to them, the ‘fight against terrorism’ justifies this invasion of privacy. Furthermore, in this global information and competitive business age, many businesses thrive on the collation of personal information through mechanisms of loyalty programmes, mobile advertisement, and client history tracing as a means of improving business activities (see Akpojivi, 2014; Akpojivi & Bevan-Dye,2015). For example, Amazon has publicly acknowledged that they collect and gather consumer information every time they search for products online, and they use consumer search history for recommending products to consumers. Not only does this confirm that Amazon develops a profile for each consumer (Hochhauser, 2000), they could also pass these profiles or data to other associates who could use them for economic purposes. Likewise, socially, millions of people are always disclosing and sharing information with their friends and loved ones via new media platforms (Bevan-Dye & Akpojivi, 2015). For example, in 2014, “Facebook recorded an average of 864 million daily active users, an estimated 300 million photographs uploaded per day and 4.75 billion pieces of content shared per day” (see Bevan-Dye & Akpojivi 2016). Consequently, it can be reasoned that information sharing on Social Networking Sites (SNS) has become a ubiquitous part of many individuals’ lives in our contemporary society (Gross & Acquisti, 2005).

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