Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) VS Social Media

What is the act that is being violated when you post the private information of someone on social media?

The act that is typically violated when you post the private information of someone on social media is the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA).

Here are five quick examples of posting private information that could violate the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA):

  1. Sharing someone’s home address without their consent.
  2. Posting a screenshot of a private conversation that includes sensitive personal details.
  3. Publishing someone’s medical condition or health records on a social platform.
  4. Uploading a photo that shows someone’s license plate without their permission.
  5. Revealing someone’s financial information, like bank statements or credit card numbers, in a social media post.

The Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA), enacted in South Africa, is the primary legislation that addresses the unlawful dissemination of personal information, including posting someone’s private information on social media. The act was signed into law in November 2013 and came into full effect on July 1, 2020.

POPIA establishes the legal framework that requires businesses, individuals, and organizations to handle the personal information of others in a manner that respects and protects the individual’s privacy. The act outlines eight key principles that govern the processing of personal information:

  1. Accountability: The responsible party must ensure compliance with all the principles outlined in POPIA.
  2. Processing Limitation: Personal information must be processed lawfully and in a reasonable manner that does not infringe on the privacy of the individual.
  3. Purpose Specification: Personal information can only be collected for specific, explicitly defined, and legitimate reasons.
  4. Further Processing Limitation: Processing methods must be compatible with the purpose for which the information was collected.
  5. Information Quality: The responsible party must ensure that the personal information is complete, accurate, not misleading, and updated where necessary.
  6. Openness: The individual whose information is being processed must be aware of the collection and the purpose for which the data is being processed.
  7. Security Safeguards: The responsible party must secure the integrity and confidentiality of personal information by preventing loss of, damage to, or unauthorized access to personal information.
  8. Data Subject Participation: The individual has the right to access and correct personal information that has been collected.

Violating these principles, such as by posting private information without consent, can lead to significant legal consequences under POPIA. This includes fines, penalties, or even imprisonment for severe breaches. This legislation reflects South Africa’s commitment to privacy and the protection of personal data in the digital age.