In 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa introduced new social protection measures for Covid-19. Given the need for social distancing – and the fact that the new beneficiaries were not registered with the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) – private partners such as GovChat were brought on board to digitise the process. This is not unusual. Around the world, private companies are being contracted to facilitate the digitalisation of state services. I collaborated with Open Secrets to show how these digital systems can cause harm – particularly to people in need of social assistance. In the digital welfare state, private companies seek to profit from the personal data they gather through digital grant systems co-created with the state. These systems enable extensive surveillance on the part of corporations and the state, in turn enabling profit-taking and political control.