Advice and Opinion

POPIA 101 – what property professionals need to know

Personal information

With the commencement of the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013 (POPIA) on the 1st of July 2021, all businesses with employees, customers, and suppliers should be reviewing their use of personal information to determine if it complies.

Wendy Tembedza from Webber Wentzel says it is important to figure out what personal information you process and why.

Under POPIA, a business must be able to justify why it holds personal information based on one of the several justifications set out in the Act. This is a good opportunity for a business to assess what information it collects whether from employees, customers, service providers or other third parties such as credit bureaus to review whether this information is necessary for the purposes for which it was collected” she says.

In this regard, minimality is key – businesses should not collect more personal information than is required. Importantly, the term ‘personal information’ is defined very broadly to mean any information that can be used to identify an individual person or another business entity.

Get rid of what you do not need. “Under POPIA, a business cannot keep a record of personal information once the reason for which it was collected no longer exists, unless required by law” cautions Tembedza.

For example, unless required by law, a business should not keep personal information of any former supplier when the relationship has ended.  Businesses should therefore check whether they are holding onto any old records of personal information that they no longer need and dispose of them in a secure manner.  It is important to note that more data means more risk and it is best to purge what is not required.

Look at security. The correct management of personal information means appropriate security must be in place to protect it. POPIA requires a business to put in place ‘appropriate, reasonable technical and organisational measures’ to prevent loss, theft, or damage to personal information.  The suitability of security measures will depend on the business and the type of personal information it holds.

Marketing. “Opt-out marketing emails and SMSs are a thing of the past under POPIA. Unless a person is an existing customer, a business cannot send him or her marketing emails or SMSs without first getting consent from the person. Any request for marketing consent must include language that is set out in POPIA’s regulations. Businesses should therefore review their direct marketing practices”.

POPIA compliance may seem like a daunting task but there are some ‘easy wins’ when it comes to compliance. Basic documents used by the business will likely need updating for POPIA compliance. These include company privacy policies and employee and supplier contracts. All these documents should aid the business in proving its compliance with POPIA” she concludes.