Picture: BLOOMBERG/SUSANA GONZALEZ
Picture: BLOOMBERG/SUSANA GONZALEZ

The data obtained from cellphone network providers on the  location of people infected with the coronavirus during  the national lockdown can be used only for combating the spread of the disease, retired Constitutional Court justice Kate O’Regan says.

O’Regan was appointed as the Covid-19 judge by justice & correctional services minister Ronald Lamola last week. She will play a critical role in providing oversight to a controversial regulation which allows the government to obtain data on cellphone locations as part of the fight to curb the spread of the Covid-19.

The regulations were gazetted last week. They  make provision for contact tracing and a national database to enable authorities to find people who are known or reasonably suspected of having contact with Covid-19 carriers.

In an interview with talk radio host Eusebius McKaiser on 702 radio station, O’Regan on Monday said the information “may only be used for combating the spread of Covid-19”.

She said the government had the power in terms of the regulations to obtain the locations of people who had tested positive for the virus and of those who may have come into contact with them, to assist in compiling a Covid-19 infection registry.

O’Regan will receive a weekly report by the director-general of the health department setting out the names and details of all the people whose locations or movements were obtained in this way.

“To the extent that our number of positives increase, the list will get longer,” O’Regan told McKaiser.

She said an important part of her role is to provide the government with recommendations on how to protect people’s privacy in relation to the information obtained by service providers.

Any other use will be unlawful and the disclosure of the information will also be unlawful, she said.  

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