Govt may need to get parents' consent before publishing this year's matric results

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Stacks of matric papers at an examination centre.
Stacks of matric papers at an examination centre.
Jaco Marais
  • The consent of matric candidates or their parents will have to be obtained if the education department wants to publish results at the end of the year, according to the Information Regulator.
  • The department will consult before making a final decision. 
  • The regulator says that from July 2021, it received 700 complaints related to unsolicited direct marketing.

Unless the Department of Basic Education gets consent, they will not be able to publish matric candidates' results in the media, the Information Regulator says.

At the end of the school year, the department usually publishes the results in newspapers.  

But this, according to the Information Regulator, might be a contravention of the Protection of Personal Information Act (Popia). 

"We understand that [the] Popia is new and a lot of people are familiarising themselves [with it]. The publishing of matric results is the processing of personal information and for that to happen, we need the consent of the subject. And in this context of dealing with children, we need parents' consent. Unless that is provided, we can't publish," said part-time board member Mfana Gwala. 

READ | Group disrupts UCT exam session by pulling papers off students' desks

Gwala added that if the department wants to publish the results, they should also give candidates the option of opting out.

"Unless the system can allow a data subject who does not want their matric results to be published to opt out, our advice is that the department gets consent from parents before they publish. If that is not the case, they will fall foul of the Act."

In January, AfriForum took the department to court over their decision not to publish the results. The court ruled in favour of AfriForum and the results were published.  

Basic education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said in light of the regulator's comments, the department would consult before making a final decision on the publication.  


Cases

Chairperson of the Information Regulator Pansy Tlakula said since July 2021, it received 700 complaints from people. Most of the complaints, she said, were related to unsolicited direct marketing. Decisions on the complaints would be published, Tlakula added. 

She said that, worryingly, there were 330 reports of data breaches since July last year. In one incident, hackers accessed TransUnion's South Africa server, using a client's credentials, affecting three million people.

READ | Three brothers die at school after allegedly consuming energy drink

In September last year, African Bank confirmed that Debt-IN, one of its appointed professional debt recovery partners, was targeted by cybercriminals in April. The personal data of the debt collection company's 1.4 million consumers was compromised, including several African Bank loan customers who were under debt review.

"Due to the prevalence of security compromises, the regulator has decided to establish a dedicated Security Compromise Unit, which will conduct extensive investigations or assessments into the security compromises suffered or experienced and issue reports with findings and recommendations," Tlakula said.


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