Bearing in mind the ever-increasing scope of activities that we are involved in and our technologically advanced world,some of us may be surprised by the extent to which our lives are actually in the public domain and how easily our personal particulars can be accessed by others.The Protection of Personal Information Bill recently tabled in Parliament,together with other recent developments in our law such as the National Credit Act,recognises and aims to strike a balance between the right to privacy of the individual and the free flow of information in an open and democratic society.
The Bill,once enacted into law will regulate the collection,dissemination,use and retention of our personal particulars by third parties,whom the Bill refers to as "responsible parties”.The Bill identifies a wide range of personal information which should be protected including gender,sex,marital status,age,physical or mental health,financial and employment history as well as contact details whether electronic or physical.
In line with its general objectives,the Bill identifies a framework called Information Protection Principles to enable the lawful processing of personal information.Some of the salient principles include:
1.The obligation to obtain the consent of the ‘owner’ of personal information,whom the Bill refers to as the ‘data subject’ before personal information is processed.
2.The need to collect personal information directly from the data subject to ensure its accuracy.
3.The right of the data subject to know the purpose of processing his/her/its personal information and the use to which that information will be put.
4.The right of the data subject to object,on reasonable grounds,to the processing of personal information.
In addition to the general definitions of personal information,the Bill also identifies types of special personal information such as race,religious beliefs,political opinions,sexual life and personal information relating to a child,which the Bill prohibits the processing of unless such processing is specifically authorised by the Act.
The Bill envisages the creation of the office of the Information Protection Regulator to authorise the processing of personal information, carry out the objectives of the Act and to deal with infringements thereof.Importantly,it provides certain safeguards for the public against unsolicited electronic information and automated decision-making.Generally speaking,the Bill curtails invitations to make use of direct marketing advances if a person does not specifically accept the invitation.
The exchange of information is necessary to ensure growth.However,our desire to be constantly in the know has the potential for abuse.It is hoped that the introduction of the Protection of Personal Information Bill into our law will provide a tangible balance between the two.
Source: By Keshri Chetty (TaxTALK)