This is the judge who will ensure tracked cellphone data is regulated

03 April 2020 - 20:04 By TimesLIVE
Justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola.
Justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola.
Image: MDUDUZI NDZINGI

Every week, the government will have to tell former Constitutional Court justice Kate O’Regan the details of all people whose location or movements were obtained using cellphone or other electronic tracking.

On Friday, justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola appointed O'Regan as the “Covid-19 Designate Judge”.

Her role will be to ensure that the privacy and personal information of every person tracked is safeguarded.

Regulations announced this week allowed the government to use cellphone data to track the locations of people who “are known or reasonably suspected to have come into contact with any person known or reasonably suspected to have contracted Covid-19”.

“The regulations provide that the director-general of health may direct an electronic communications service provider to provide him or her with information regarding the location or movements of any person known, or reasonably suspected, to have contracted Covid-19 or any person known, or reasonably suspected, to have come into contact with such a person. The requested information would be for inclusion in the Covid-19 Tracing Database.

“While government does all it can to implement measures to fight the spread of Covid-19, the Designated Judge [O’Regan] has an important role to play to safeguard the privacy and personal information of persons during this process,” said Lamola.

He said the health director-general must file a weekly report to O’Regan “setting out the names and details of all persons whose location or movements were so obtained”.

O’Regan would also have the authority to make recommendations to relevant cabinet ministers “regarding the amendment or enforcement of this regulation in order to safeguard the right to privacy whilst ensuring the ability of the department of health to engage in urgent and effective contact tracing to address, prevent and combat the spread of Covid-19”.

O’Regan comes with a strong legal pedigree.

She was a Constitutional Court judge for 15 years until she left in 2009 — and was the active Deputy Chief Justice during 2009.

Since leaving the country’s highest court, O’Regan has served as an ad hoc judge of the Supreme Court of Namibia, and also served as chairperson of the UN Internal Justice Council from 2008 to 2012.

“Justice O’Regan is a highly respected former Judge of our Constitutional Court and is known for her unwavering commitment to human rights, social justice and the rule of law. I am grateful to Justice O’Regan for availing herself for this role so as to ensure that whilst we fight COVID-19, people’s rights to privacy are not compromised,” said Lamola.


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