24 May 2011 by , , and

Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr launches a dedicated Data Protection and Privacy Group

In anticipation of a rush by companies to become compliant with the Protection of Personal Information Bill (POPI) before it is enacted into law, business law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr has established a dedicated Data Protection and Privacy Group. This Group consists of various practitioners with the necessary expertise to assist clients in complying with the legislation, ie addressing privacy of information and data protection requirements under the legislation.

Once it takes effect, POPI will affect any person or organisation (public or private) that processes personal information of South Africans and South African businesses.

"Companies need to start preparing now, if they have not done so already, in order to be compliant by the time the Bill is enacted," said Preeta Bhagattjee, a director of Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr and head of its Technology, Media and Telecommunications practice.

POPI is aimed at ensuring that the personal information of individuals is protected and will give effect to the right to privacy contained in the Constitution, while protecting the free-flow of information and advancing the right of access to information.

"This means that the Bill provides a regulatory framework within which organisations may process personal information. Personal information is any information that identifies a natural or juristic (corporate) person and can be linked back to that person, such as contact information, information regarding race, gender, marital status, religious beliefs, medical and financial information and the like," she said.

Bhagattjee will head up the firm's Data Protection and Privacy Group, which comprises a team of twelve multi-skilled lawyers drawn from various practice groups within the firm in both the Johannesburg and Cape Town offices, led by co-directors Nick Altini (Competition and Regulatory); Aadil Patel, Faan Coetzee and Gillian Lumb (Employment); Brigit Rubinstein (Dispute Resolution), Hans Evenhuis and Simone Gill (TMT). The team has specialist expertise in every aspect of privacy of information and data protection.

Members of the Data Protection and Privacy Group team have in-depth knowledge of international privacy laws, most notably the European Union data protection model on which POPI is based, and similar privacy laws in the United States and Canada. They also have expert knowledge of international case law and the application of similar laws in other jurisdictions that will serve as a guideline for the interpretation of POPI.

Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr's affiliation to DLA Piper, one of the world's largest legal practices, also gives its lawyers immediate access to an international group of information lawyers specialising in data protection and privacy of information.

According to Bhagattjee, the Data Protection and Privacy Group will be the largest practice of its kind in South Africa. "Given the scope of our specialist knowledge, we can advise on the new local laws as well as conducting comparative studies on international regulations."

"Companies will need to consider bespoke advice on how this law will apply to their particular business operations and what steps they would be required to take in order to comply" Bhagattjee added.

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