The newly drafted Protection of Personal Information (PPI) Bill, which is expected to be promulgated later this year, will affect the way in which the media deals with its sources and may increase the obligations of media houses to protect personal information, says advisory law firm Deloitte director for tax and legal affairs Dean Chivers.
The PPI Bill aims to promote the protection of personal information processed by public and private bodies, to introduce information protection principles that establish minimum requirements for the processing of personal information and to establish an information protection regulator.
It will also provide for the issuing of codes of conduct, the establishment of rights of individuals regarding unsolicited electronic communications and auto- mated decision-making, regulation of the flow of personal information across the borders of South Africa and provision for other similar matters.
Additional obligations on the part of the media may include security of personal inform-ation, accuracy of personal information, providing reports of lost personal information as well as providing data reports on personal information that a media house may have.
Chivers says that it may be more difficult for journalists to access an individual’s personal information as the Bill states that personal information must be collected directly from the data report. However, there are exemptions in the PPI Bill, which exclude some of the obligations for journalistic purposes.
The media may be exempted from the provision in the Bill, which states that, once inform-ation has been used for what it was obtained for, it must be destroyed. Even if the journalistic exemptions do not stretch this far, retention can be secured if personal information is de-identified. Personal information may also be published if it is in the interest of security, law enforcement or justice.
Meanwhile, Chivers believes that the PPI Bill has achieved a good balance between the constitutional right to privacy and the right to freedom of the press, but the Bill is still, nevertheless, viewed negatively potentially owing to the highly contested Protection of Information Bill (POIB), which is currently being debated in Parliament.
The POIB will allow State institutions to classify information to keep it out of the public domain. The Bill will also allow for the protection of State information against unlawful alteration, destruction or loss.
Chivers explains that the PPI Bill must be viewed in a different light when compared with the POIB. “The PPI Bill is in line with international standards and has been implemented in many First World countries,” concludes Chivers.