The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) protects the personal data of natural persons and at the same time allows the free movement of such data within the European Union (EU). Hailed as majestic by admirers and dismissed as protectionist by critics, the Regulation is expected to have a profound impact around the world, including in the African Union (AU). For European–African consortia conducting research that may affect the privacy of African citizens, the question is ‘how to protect personal data of data subjects while at the same time ensuring a just distribution of the benefits of a global digital ecosystem?
’ We use location privacy as a point of departure, because information about an individual’s location is different from other kinds of personally identifiable information. We analyse privacy at two levels, individual and cultural. Our perspective is interdisciplinary: we draw from computer science to describe three scenarios of transformation of volunteered or observed information to inferred information about a natural person and from cultural theory to distinguish four privacy cultures emerging within the EU in the wake of GDPR. We highlight recent data protection legislation in the AU and discuss factors that may accelerate or inhibit the alignment of data protection legislation in the AU with the GDPR.
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