The Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) is South Africa’s data protection law. This is a summary or short explanation of why it is important, who it affects, what the timeline is, and what action you should take. This article also provides you with links to read more about the Protection of Personal Information Act.
Why do we need the Protection of Personal Information Act
Essentially, the purpose of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) is to protect people from harm by protecting their personal information. To stop their money being stolen, to stop their identity being stolen, and generally to protect their privacy, which is a fundamental human right.
To achieve this, the Protection of Personal Information Act sets conditions for when it is lawful for someone to process someone else’s personal information.
Who are the Role Players?
The Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) involves three parties (who can be natural or juristic persons):
- The data subject: the person to whom the information relates.
- The responsible party: the person who determines why and how to process. For example, profit companies, non-profit companies, governments, state agencies and people. Called controllers in other jurisdictions
- The operator: a person who processes personal information on behalf of the responsible party. For example, an IT vendor. Called processors in other jurisdictions.
The Protection of Personal Information Act places various obligations on the responsible party, which is the body ultimately responsible for the lawful processing of personal information. Responsible parties should only use operators that can meet the requirements of lawful personal information processing prescribed by the Protection of Personal Information Act.
The Timeline of POPIA
Who is affected
Any natural or juristic person who processes personal information, including large corporates and government. The data protection laws of many other countries exempt SMEs, but not currently in South Africa. Maybe the Information Regulator will exempt some natural person and SMEs from complying. Only time will tell in this regard.
Actions you can Take
- Empower yourself with practical knowledge by joining a Data Protection Programme, attending a POPI Act workshop or POPIA webinar.
- Get assistance by finding out how we can help you with privacy and data protection.
- Raise awareness about POPIA in your organisation by arranging for us to facilitate your own private in-house POPI Act workshop.
- Increase your knowledge on POPIA by reading it online.
- Enquire about how we can help with your specific requirement and we’ll give you a fixed price quote.
Stay up-to-date with the lastest POPIA developments
What steps will you have to take to comply?
Responsible parties will have to take various steps to comply. For example:
- Appoint an Information Officer.
- Raise awareness amongst all employees.
- Amend contracts with operators.
- Report data breaches to the regulator and data subjects.
- Check that they can lawfully transfer personal information to other countries.
- Only share personal information when they are lawfully able to.
What are the Penalties for Non-compliance?
There are essentially two legal penalties or consequences for the responsible party:
- A fine or imprisonment of between R1 million and R10 million or one to ten years in jail.
- Paying money to data subjects to compensate them for the damage they have suffers.
The other penalties include:
- Reputation damage
- Losing customers (and employees) and failing to attract new ones
But your main motivation for complying with the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) should be to protect people from harm.