No government 'exceptions' on personal data

2014-02-05 10:30
Government departments and agencies should not be granted exceptional exemptions to the provisions of Popi legislation, a security firm says. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Government departments and agencies should not be granted exceptional exemptions to the provisions of Popi legislation, a security firm says. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Cape Town - The Protection of Personal Information Act (Popi) should apply to all organisations, irrespective of whether they be government agencies, a security firm has asserted.

Popi was promulgated in 2013 in response to the rampant practice of companies collecting and trading personal information, but the act is intended to limit this behaviour.

The act specifies that personal information must be processed lawfully and "in a reasonable manner that does not infringe on the privacy of the data subject".

This means that in theory, one government department, home affairs for example should not - under the law - be allowed to share information with agencies like the Metro Police or Sars.

"The law applies to all parties accessing private information as far as we understand. We are not aware of special circumstances being extended to government or their associations," Andrew Kirkland, regional director for Trustwave Africa told News24.


Trustwave is a security company that specialises in helping organisation fight cybercrime by, among other things, conducting ethical intrusions and monitoring to ensure data fidelity.

Popi places the burden of showing that personal data has been carefully managed with the company or organisation that collects it.

However, while the act does not specifically exempt government departments, it makes an exception as regards the sharing of personal information where it relates to criminal activity.

Specifically, the act describes that the law does not apply to activity "which involves national security, including activities that are aimed at assisting in the identification of the financing of terrorist and related activities".

In practice, it is expected that the appointment of a regulator as envisioned in the act will adjudicate on matters where people feel that their personal data has been misused.

The act also specifies that organisations that flout the law will be subject to financial penalties, but it is up to the regulator to make a determination on the extent of these.

However, the regulator has not yet been appointed, potentially leaving citizens in legal limbo as far as their personal information protection is concerned.

Trustwave said that given the importance of personal information and the legal implications for companies that store the individuals' data, the appointment of a regulator and discussions on the implementation of Popi was key.


"If the data relates to private individuals based in SA then the law would apply no matter where the data sits. We are not yet sure what this will look like yet and are eager to discuss these and others with the regulator once appointed," said Kirkland.

It is expected that once the act is fully implemented South Africans will enjoy a level of protection of personal information, but access may still constitute a barrier to legal remedies even though the regulator is empowered to act independently.

Kirkland said that despite all the legal protections, it is important that all citizens protect their personal data.

"We all have a responsibility to protect private information."

- Follow Duncan on Twitter
Read more on:    trustwave  |  online privacy

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Millions of plastic particles in our food!

Scientists and researchers believe that almost five million tons of plastic is dumped in the oceans every year and it’s affecting our food.



Plastic on your plate
Prince George the green prince?
Lean, green, drifiting machine
One man's $1 million vision for an eco Africa

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts

Trying to keep time for your social commitments and friendships as well as taking care of work and health obligations can be more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.