12 September 2012

Protection of Personal Information Bill – promulgation is in motion

The Protection of Personal Information Bill (Bill), designed to ensure that personal information is protected by providing a regulatory framework within which information may be processed, has been referred back to Parliament for a second reading and further debate, expected to be held on 11 September 2012.

According to Simone Gill, Director in the Technology Media and Telecommunications (TMT) practice at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, “Since being tabled in Parliament in 2009, the Bill has been referred to the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development (Committee) which has considered, deliberated and debated on a number of working drafts. It appears that these deliberations have drawn to an end, with the Committee's vote on the current working draft of the Bill on 5 September 2012. The vote indicated a unanimous decision in favour of the Bill.”

Although it is not possible to anticipate when the Bill will ultimately be finalised and promulgated, the favourable vote and adoption of the Bill by the Committee certainly indicates that the process for promulgation is in motion and may soon be drawing to a close,” Gill says.

Gill notes that once the Bill is promulgated, it is expected to have a significant impact on the manner in which private and public bodies process personal information (personal information being any information that identifies a natural or juristic (corporate) person.

Tayyibah Suliman, Senior Associate in the TMT practice adds, “Ultimately, Members of Parliament will be required to cast their votes on the Bill. If there is a majority vote in favour of the Bill, the National Assembly will then pass the Bill and refer it to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for its consideration. If satisfied with the Bill, the NCOP will ratify the Bill and the Bill will then be prepared for signature and assent by the President, alternatively the NCOP may refer the Bill back to Parliament.”

‘’When enacted into law, the Bill will protect the free-flow of information and advance the right of access to information while giving effect to the right to privacy contained in the Constitution. Given that promulgation seems likely to occur in the near future, organisations are advised to assess the specific application of the various requirements prescribed by the Bill to their businesses and consider the steps to be taken for compliance’’ Suliman adds.

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