The Right to Deletion: Identity, Memory, and Surveillance Capitalism

Author: Yvonne Jooste

ISSN: 1996-2193
Affiliations: LLB LLM LLD, Research Associate, Department of Jurisprudence, University of Pretoria
Source: Stellenbosch Law Review, Volume 33 Issue 3, 2022, p. 460 – 483


This article considers “the right to deletion” enacted under the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013 and uses the right as a lens through which to contemplate (1) memory, identity, and forgetting in the digital age; (2) the erosion of the privacies of life and the notion of “home” in the context of ubiquitous technologies; and (3) a new form of instrumentarian power created by surveillance capitalist regimes that aims to make individuals into known and knowable entities for economic ends as well as the implications of this form of power for the values of dignity, democracy and privacy. It is suggested that the reclaiming of forgetting is necessary for human growth and agency and that the reclaiming of “home” is required as a shelter for the privacies of life, intimacy, and freedom. The argument is also made that the right to deletion should be understood within the context of the increasing loss of privacy within societies under techno-capitalist control.