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For Your Eyes Only - POPIA Essentials


The Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) has been in the making for a while, with certain aspects already introduced. It is finally set to come into full effect after President Cyril Ramaphosa said, in June, that the effective date for compliance is 1 July 2021, and most organisations will have much to do to get ready during this grace period.


Privacy is a basic human right. Individuals have the right to:

  • access their data

  • change or update it

  • request that it is deleted

  • object to direct marketing

  • be notified if data is compromised

  • lay a complaint with the information regulator


Globally, data protection is in the spotlight. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which has become a benchmark for data protection laws around the world, has been in operation for just over two years and is strictly enforced by regulatory authorities. A recent ruling by the European Court of Justice resulted in the US having to scramble to put a federal data protection law in place.


Russell Nel, data protection officer at Alexander Forbes, says “good data protection practices help to foster trust with your customers, stakeholders, and the general public”.

Under the law, one of the rights that individuals have is to be notified when their information is collected.


  • At a minimum, they should be told:

  • what information will be collected

  • the reasons or purpose for collection and processing

  • who their information will be sent to

  • any laws requiring such collection

Data breaches are a costly business – even if the information regulator has not issued any fines, your reputation will be damaged because of a breach, making it more difficult to attract and retain clients.

Nel discusses some of the key privacy challenges corporates face:


1. Privacy is seen as a compliance matter


While many organisations try to drive privacy from a compliance perspective, in reality it is much broader than that. A good privacy implementation should involve all areas of a business – from business operations, to risk and compliance, marketing, and particularly information technology.


2. Time and effort to comply are underestimated


Organisations overseas, particularly in the UK and Europe, have had data protection laws in place in some form since the 1990s. Despite the fact that they have had two decades to prepare, many organisations are still largely unable to fully comply with these laws, and we see regulatory authorities issuing multi-million euro fines with alarming frequency.


3. Data protection never ends


Data protection requires constantly re-evaluating your organisation, and the risks to personal information. Just because you are secure today does not mean you will be protected tomorrow – technology, business and the markets evolve rapidly, and you need to keep up.


Privacy and data protection need to be built into operational processes; systems may need to be upgraded or replaced, and people need to be trained.


Nel said that, before a data breach even happens, the trustees should review the company’s insurance policy and engage with the brokers to ensure that adequate cover is put in place once POPIA takes effect. This means making certain that insurance cover for a breach is adequate.


He explains that, if personal information is compromised or accessed by an unauthorised user, the responsible party will need to notify any individuals who may be affected, as well as the information regulator.


“Trustees have an obligation to ensure that this information is appropriately protected.”


Some things that can be done to protect information in accordance with POPIA principles:

  • Make sure that any printed documentation is securely locked away, and shredded when it is no longer needed

  • With the Covid-19 pandemic, more people are working remotely. Make sure that family, friends and children do not have access to private information or the systems on which it is stored

  • Make sure that laptops or computers are encrypted and that mobile devices are secured with a PIN or biometric access control. Investigate the possibility of minimising, redacting or ‘de-identifying’ data so that it cannot be used to identify an individual if it is compromised.

“This is especially important when transmitting data by email, as email fraud and spoofing attacks are on the rise, especially in light of increased remote working,” concludes Nel.


ENDS

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