South Africa: Protect Your Personal Information

Last Updated: 30 January 2014
Article by Nikki Pennel

You are at an office park and the only way to gain access and attend your meeting is to exchange your personal information - you sign away your name, ID number and contact details, while at least one security camera is carefully trained on your car. At more sophisticated security-controlled premises, one might have the pleasure of having both your drivers' licence and fingerprints scanned before entrance is permitted. It's happened to me and, in every case, I have felt more than a little uncomfortable about who has access to that information and where my personal details would end up.  There is no such thing as being anonymous these days.

At some point, we have all had concerns regarding our personal information being collected, used, stored and given to others. We don't always have control over who has access to our private details. The horror stories abound: identity theft, credit card skimming and large-scale security breaches exposing the personal information of thousands to anyone who may be surfing nearby. It happened to NHS Surrey, when more than 3 000 patient records were inadvertently left on old computers, which were then sold by a data destruction company engaged by NHS Surrey to wipe and destroy their old computer equipment. Closer to home, it was reported that various retailers in several shopping malls had discarded their customers' personal information in the malls' garbage bins.  The documents which were found in the bins included complete original applications for retail accounts, copies of identity documents and cell phone contracts with signatures. 

The way in which your company does business, and all of our personal information is handled, is about to change.  The Protection of Personal Information Act (known fondly amongst practitioners as "POPI") has been passed by Parliament and was signed by the president in November last year.

What is POPI?

POPI is not the highly controversial 'Secrecy Bill' or Protection of State Information Bill, which was recently sent back to Parliament for reconsideration. POPI is a piece of legislation poised to protect our personal information processed by both private and public bodies (including government).

Some exceptions exist, but every person who collects, stores and otherwise modifies or uses information (i.e. processes information) is responsible under POPI and must comply with the conditions required for the lawful processing of personal information. 

POPI places a number of responsibilities on the entity or 'responsible party' collecting and using the information, including:

  • obtaining consent to process a person's personal information;
  • identifying the legitimate purpose for which information is processed and ensuring that the processing of information is relevant , adequate and not excessive in respect of that purpose
  • notifying persons when their personal information is collected and the purpose for which the information is collected
  • installing security measures to protect the integrity of the information
  • where a security compromise occurs, notifying the regulator and the data subject of that breach and possible consequences of the security compromise
  • ensuring, by a written agreement, that any third-party operator which processes personal information for the responsible party establishes and maintains the security measure referred to in POPI
  • destroying or deleting a record of personal information as soon as the purpose for which the information was collected runs out.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but gives some idea how far POPI extends.

POPI also enables one to request access from the responsible party holding your personal information and, unless there are other legal requirements for the responsible party to retain that information, you may request that the information be destroyed or deleted.  Good news for those of us who are frustrated at receiving yet another unsolicited marketing call or concerned where the information given at security guard houses goes.

For companies, with businesses to run and budgets to meet, it also means that systems and procedures need to be put in place to deal with these data requests, amongst the other compliance requirements of POPI. Without the appropriate measures in place, the handling of data requests for information processed on a daily basis could be an administrative nightmare: consider for a moment the company holding the financial information of thousands of credit applicants, the medical aid dealing with detailed medical histories of its members or the company handling the personal information of job applicants and employees. 

What can we expect from POPI?

A regulator is to be established to undertake a number of duties in relation to POPI, to deal with consumer complaints, monitor and enforce compliance with POPI.  Heavy fines of up to R10 million or imprisonment for a period of up to 10 years may be imposed on companies and other persons who fail to adhere to the provisions of POPI. Persons affected by responsible parties unlawfully processing or otherwise disseminating their personal information may institute civil action for damages, or request the regulator to do so on their behalf.

Certain industries will, no doubt, have POPI very much in their focus, especially where personal information is managed in large volumes, for instance, the health care, insurance, financial and banking, retail, telecommunications industries.  This does not mean that companies operating outside of information-intensive industries can choose to ignore POPI.  Every company falls within the net cast by POPI by dealing with personal information at some level – at the very least, the personal information of its staff and prospective employees as part of a company's Human Resources function.

It may well be that a person can never get through life without the exchange of personal information, but one can expect that personal information be protected and a  forum will exist to ensure that private and public entities don't abuse your personal information.  At the end of it all, whether you consider POPI to be a positive addition to the consumer's quiver or yet another administrative hindrance to running your business, it's all about POPI readiness, and the time is ripe to heed the famous scout motto and 'be prepared'.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions