Protection of Personal Information Bill: An overview

PUBLISHED 6 MAY 2011   

Protection of Personal Information Bill: An overview

The importance of protection of information, in particular personal information, has been highlighted by the recent increase of practices such as identity theft, selling of information, spam and fraud. Various foreign jurisdictions have now implemented stringent controls and legislated how personal information should be processed, used and stored. It appears that, by the introduction of the Protection of Personal Information Bill (PPI), South Africa has followed global trends.

The PPI is, in many respects, similar to its United Kingdom (UK) counterpart, the Data Protection Act 29 of 1998 (DPA), which makes provision for the regulation of information relating to individuals, including the obtaining, holding and use or disclosure of such information. The DPA has dramatically affected the law in the UK and we can expect the PPI to have a similar effect in South Africa.


Applicability

The PPI will apply to the processing of personal information entered in a record by or for a responsible party that is domiciled in South Africa. The PPI may also apply where the receiving party is not domiciled in South Africa but is using either automated or non-automated means to process personal information in South Africa.

The PPI will not apply in instances where processing of personal information is for purely personal or household activities. The Bill will also not apply to the state when it is involved in matters pertaining to national security, defence or public safety. The PPI does not apply to journalistic purposes as long as it is subject to a code of ethics and has sufficient safeguards in place. It is also important to note that the PPI will not apply to instances relating to the functioning of courts.


Conclusion

Despite the seemingly onerous duties of the PPI, the final enactment of the Bill will in all likelihood be beneficial. The UK model will be a good example in providing guidelines for South Africa to implement the provisions of the PPI.

With the PPI’s potential sweeping impact estate agents should take special care in drafting of agreements.