Draft privacy protection law released

Protection of privacy and data draft legislation and discussion documents have been issued by the SA Law Reform Commission for public comment.

The aim is to bring SA closer to international standards.

Another aim of the proposed legislation is to offer South Africans proper legislative recourse for the protection of their personal information, which is currently covered only through the Constitution and some sections of other Acts.

The proposed legislation, the draft Bill on the protection of personal information, is available at http://www.doj.gov.za/salrc/index.htm. The closing date for comments is 28 February 2006. The SA Law Reform Commission also plans to hold a series of workshops on the legislation during February.

SA Law Reform Commission chief director Willie Henegan says the commission has carried out a substantial and complex investigation into privacy of information.

"If we don’t have this legislation, this country will be out of the loop with regard to various international trends," he says.

ICT lawyer Lisa Thornton says there is no South African legislation that specifically protects privacy.

"The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act has some voluntary provisions and the Promotion of Access to Information (PIA) Act has some provisions to request information. The only major recourse to protect one’s privacy, at the moment, is to go to the Constitutional Court," she says.

Thornton also says the draft Bill on the protection of personal information is necessary for SA to deal with other countries, especially in call centre industry outsourcing, where personal financial and health information moves easily across international boundaries.

Champion needed

Ananda Louw, SA Law Reform Commission researcher, says the draft Bill is a hybrid between the European Union directive, which is aimed at protecting human rights, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development guidelines, which are aimed at creating market efficiencies.

"What we have noticed is that those two schools of thought are moving closer together," she says.

Louw says one of the proposals within the draft legislation is to create an "information commissioner", who would ensure the draft privacy Bill and PIA are properly implemented.

"Currently we have no champion for either piece of legislation, so there is no one for the public to turn to," she says.

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Draft privacy protection law released