Update on the implementation of the POPI Act

President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Cybercrimes Bill into law on 1 June, which seeks to bring South Africa’s cybersecurity laws in line with the rest of the world. This Bill creates offences for and criminalises, amongst others, the disclosure of data messages which are harmful. Other offences include cyber fraud, forgery, extortion and theft of incorporeal property. The unlawful and intentional access of a computer system or computer data storage medium is also considered an offence along with the unlawful interception of, or interference with data.

This creates a broad array for the application of the Cybercrimes Act which defines “data” as electronic representations of information in any form. The Act does not define “cybercrime” but rather creates a number of offences such as those canvassed above.

The impact this Act will have on businesses is important, as it overlaps with the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013 (POPIA), amongst other regulatory codes and pieces of legislation. POPIA, which deals with personal information, aims to give effect to the right to privacy by protecting persons against the unlawful processing of personal information. One of the conditions for lawful processing in terms of POPIA is security safeguards which prescribes that the integrity and confidentiality of personal information must be secured by a person in control of that information. This is prescribed by POPIA to prevent loss, damage or unauthorised access to or destruction of personal information. POPIA also creates a reporting duty on persons responsible for processing personal information whereby they must report any unlawful access to personal information (data breach) to the Information Regulator within a reasonable period of time.

Companies should be cognisant of their practices especially in dealing with data or information. The value of data as an asset, which has high trading value, cannot be understated.

  • Reinhardt Lohbauer – Lohbauer Associates for HopkinsCoetzee