South Africa is heavily connected to the internet, and as is the case with many countries, the government is trying to exert a new level of control. South Africa’s unorthodox, impossible, and confusing proposition aims to declare their government the owners of everything that has ever happened online.
This is either a well informed absurdist move, or a proposition drafted by a group of individuals who fail to fully conceptualize the way the internet works. Legal experts and people in the tech field have a lot to say about South Africa’s Draft National Policy on Data and the Cloud proposes.
What Draft National Policy on Data and the Cloud Says
“Data generated in South Africa shall be the property of South Africa, regardless of where the technology company is domiciled”
These are the words causing uproar and concern among tech company owners and lawyers. This would mean that South Africa owns everything that every business or tech platform generates or stores in South Africa. Every bit of information that comes into being within the country’s borders will belong to the government.
This means they have full discretion over how that data is used and where it goes. It undercuts any company’s ability to run their own business and jeopardizes the privacy of anyone on the internet who might interact with a South African website, tech company, or even a South African individual online.
Someone Needs to Explain How the Internet Works
The internet is not a country or a business. It isn’t fully contained by one entity. It doesn’t have borders. It’s an open source resource that serves the entire world. Many governments aim to take control of data or demand access to it. None of them can claim to exclusively own it. This is what South Africa is attempting to do.
It’s unclear how or why they believe this move is possible, but it’s easy to see why they may feel it’s advantageous. They would effectively control the internet out from under entities and companies that have a significant online presence.
If passed in its current form, the consequences could severely harm individuals. People who post photos, songs, blogs, journalism, stories, or videos in South Africa are essentially relinquishing their ownership of their own property every time they upload. They no longer have the rights to something they’ve posted. Ownership immediately diverts to the South African government in a blatant act of intellectual property theft.
Generating Data Outside of South Africa (Even When You Live in South Africa)
Although it’s unlikely that the proposal will go into effect in its current form, it’s best to take caution. If you live in South Africa or if you intend to visit, connect to the internet with a VPN like TorGuard. TorGuard can make your data appear as though it was generated from anywhere. The government thinks they’re clever, but tech savvy users will always have home court advantage when it comes to matters of the internet.
You can post to the internet through a European country or a North American country, effectively circumventing the rule. The government will never have a record of you posting due to the anonymity provided by a VPN, and even if the content were discovered, it would appear to be generated in a different country.