South African Court Orders SAA to Destroy Leaked Airlink Data

By Ivan PetrenkoApr 19, 2024 04:30 AMNews
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White and red airplane wing over blue sky during daytime. Source: unsplash

The Gauteng Division of the High Court of South Africa has ruled in favor of Airlink in a significant data privacy case against South African Airways (SAA). The court ordered SAA to delete confidential customer data allegedly leaked by a former Airlink executive who subsequently joined SAA. This decision underlines the importance of safeguarding sensitive commercial information within the competitive airline industry.

Background of the Case

The court's decision came after Airlink filed an urgent interdict on March 20 against former executive Carla Da Silva and ten other employees who moved to SAA. These individuals were accused of using and potentially leaking Airlink’s proprietary data, including details about valuable contracts with travel agencies and management consortiums. The court's order, issued on April 16, emphasizes the severity of data privacy breaches and the need for corporate responsibility in handling competitor information.

Court's Instructions to SAA

Judge David Unterhalter mandated that all electronic copies of an Excel spreadsheet containing Airlink’s customer data, which had been emailed by Da Silva in October 2023, be destroyed. SAA and the implicated former employees were also instructed to purge any derivative information from their databases by April 17. SAA must confirm the destruction of these files through an affidavit, ensuring no prior or subsequent use of the data.

Reactions from the Airlines

Both Airlink and SAA have expressed approval of the court’s decision. Airlink's CEO, Roger Foster, praised the ruling, highlighting its affirmation of their legal stance and the protection it offers to their intellectual property. Conversely, South African Airways, represented by Interim CEO Professor John Lamola, acknowledged the court's order without admitting guilt and assured that SAA does not rely on competitors’ data for its operations. The airline also emphasized its commitment to addressing the allegations internally, respecting the ongoing legal processes.

Implications and Future Prospects

This case sheds light on the critical issue of data privacy in the airline industry and sets a precedent for how companies must handle information that could unfairly influence competitive dynamics. The resolution of this dispute will be closely watched as it may define future interactions and legal standards for corporate conduct between competing airlines in South Africa.

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