The right to decide what to disclose about oneself is called by Germans informational self-determination according to an article by Hannah Kuchler, an FT correspondent in San Francisco, and published in the FT over the weekend: “Home truths for the Zuck era”.


“Many activists in Europe hope that the EU’s forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation will spread their view of privacy around the world. They hope multinationals will find it easier to create rules for all users, based on the idea that Europeans should consent to every single use of their data”.

Reference is made to a 2004 Yale Law Journal paper by James Q Whitman who contrasts the two western cultures of privacy, whereby Americans see it as a question of liberty and Europeans regard it as being about dignity. So liberty protects citizens from intrusions of the state and is connected to private property and free speech rights. By contrast dignity is concerned with press intrusion.

In the article the writer suggests social networks should be seen as more like cities with different levels of privacy for each activity and users should expect “privacy in their messages and small groups, with no data collected”. Public posts should be available to all and not just those who agree to have their data harvested and such data “behind the public posts should be available for researchers to analyse”.

It remains to be seen what approach is adopted in South Africa given our POPIA.