In a recent statement the Department of Basic Education announced that it will discontinue the publishing of matric results in the media, to comply with the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013 (POPIA) which came into effect, for the most part, on 1st July 2020. With the anxiety that grips learners each year towards the time when matric results are released and published, it may come as welcome news to some learners, whilst others opine that to some degree the publishing of matric results in the media encouraged them to work harder. Well, it seems those learners will have to motivate themselves in some other ways.
POPIA was promulgated to give effect to the right to privacy, as provided for in section 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act 108 of 1996 (Constitution). In section 2 of POPIA, is its purpose, which is to give “effect to the constitutional right to privacy, by safeguarding personal information when processed by a responsible party, subject to justifiable limitations.” POPIA applies to all entities (responsible parties) that collect and process personal information from data subjects. In section 5, POPIA provides for the rights of data subjects and amongst the key principles is the requirement for provision of consent by the data subject, prior to the processing of their personal information by the responsible party. Section 11 (1) (a) is specific with regard to the requirement for consent before personal information is processed. This extends to the publishing of personal information, and the data subject must give their prior consent before a responsible party may publish such information.
The lawful processing of personal information can only be achieved if it complies with the eight (8) conditions provided for in POPIA. Section 19 (1) provides that the responsible party must put measures in place to secure the integrity and confidentiality of personal information within its possession. It puts paid therefore, that the confidentiality and/or privacy of personal information is at the core of POPIA.
One of the eight conditions as aforesaid is the requirement for security safeguards, provided for in Sections 19 to 22. The key aspect underlying in these sections is that the confidentiality and/or privacy of personal information, must be given effect to.
Data subject participation is also one of the eight conditions for lawful processing of personal information provided for in POPIA. This requires that the data subject (person whose personal information is being processed), be made aware that they have the right to access, request any amends, deletion or alteration of their personal information. The data subject may also request information about the purpose and manner of such processing. It is not exactly clear whether the Department of Basic Education sought the prior consent of learners before publishing matric results and other personal details of the learner in the past. Possibly not, because if it did then it would have complied with POPIA on this aspect.
In conclusion, we are of the opinion that the decision by the Department of Basic Education is an informed one in light of POPIA. The protection of personal information is a matter of vital importance especially in recent years, hence the promulgation of POPIA. We assist entities to comply with the provisions and requirements of POPIA. We also assist in family law, civil, property transfers amongst a wide array of matters.
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