POPI – Protection of Personal Information Bill

Posted by Flux on 

31 December 2013


What is trending?

Data and the newfound threat of the abuse of consumer data is bringing to the fore responsible data management. With organisations increasingly realising that they have been sleeping on mines of value in consumer data – the advent of big data has meant that the way we process, make sense of and utilise data has reached new unimaginable heights. Personal data is a valuable commodity in the era of today, however that has meant that the protection of that data has become equally paramount. This couldn’t be evidenced more by the Protection of Personal Information Bill, commonly known as POPI, signed into law in January 2014.

Why its important?

POPI essentially introduces new parameters and new set of rules governing the handling of data about people and entities. This essentially changes the complexion of the way business processes are carried out. Most importantly, what POPI introduces is jurisdiction that empowers the citizen, and in many cases the consumer to a legally protected right to privacy. In the past, consumer data could have been sold and passed on freely and in many cases abused. As consumers, we are tired of being bombarded with unsolicited calls from call centres offering products we have no need off. As consumers, our information needs to be safeguarded so as not to distrust the institutions such as banks, insurers, cellphone service providers and even the internet – and have the confidence that our information is not being traded.

Doing business in a data-driven world becomes key and being compliant to the legalities of POPI is a key consideration for companies. It forces organisations that have our data to use it responsibly and safeguard it. At the heart of this is our privacy in the face of more surveillance, privacy threats and growing distrust.

Butterfly effect?

The burden of compliance with POPI, once the grace period of a year has elapsed, will be difficult evident due to the broad definitions which largely make the legislation hard to enforce. Moreover, because POPI is possibly the most comprehensive piece of privacy legislation in the world; the provisions make it difficult to fully understand the implications.

It means that data management and the protection of data privacy will come to the fore. This is substantial considering the big trend that big data continues to be. Ethical data management is what will ultimately result. An increasing need to invest in the infrastructure, technology and governance to manage data in a professional and ethical manner will be a future trend that gains more traction.
Perhaps the true effects of POPI will most affect those in the business of direct marketing. Currently, direct marketers may collect (buy third party database lists), contact, retain and continue to share that personal information until such a point as a consumer “opts out”. This is the present situation under the Consumer Protection Act. Under POPI legislation, direct marketers will have to obtain permission . We will see a significant investment and drive from organisations to engage consumers in social media marketing as a means to overcome the significant constraints POPI imposes on other channels of direct marketing such as emails, sms and phone calls. Marketers and companies alike will now look to further the trend of speaking to their consumers through narratives and content marketing that appeal to their lifestyles and needs. Communities is what will ultimately become the way in which marketing takes shape, also investing in total rewards schemes and value propositions to continually engage consumers and convince them to want to stay in touch.

Global Hotspots?

The UN Guidelines and Commonwealth Law Ministers both encourage countries to enact legislation that will accord appropriate measure of protection to personal information. In 1995, the European Union furthermore enacted the Data Protection Directive. Europe is known to have led the way in legislation that protects personal information and data.

By: Saint-Francis Tohlang

About Saint-Francis

Saint-Francis is a cultural student of life; keenly perceptive and observant of shapers of culture and the post-modern climate. He is obsessed with contemporary culture and the human carnival. His research areas and interest are media markets and strategies, communications, youth culture, mobile culture and the online media ecology strongly rooted in an anthropological perspective. Tohlang has an MA in Media from UCT.

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