Waspa wants info officer clarity

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The Wireless Application Service Providers' Association (Waspa) says the imminent promulgation of the Protection of Personal Information (PPI) Act is a welcome development, but it wants more details on the role of the information officer.

PPI, which is expected to come into law towards the end of this year, should help align legislation with important consumer protection elements of the Waspa Code of Conduct, says the umbrella body.

The legislation will be the first consolidated piece of privacy legislation in the country. It dictates how and what personal information can be used, and how it must be stored securely, and forces companies to tell people if their information has been breached.

"PPI is a huge step in the right direction and is a very well-drafted piece of legislation. Waspa has only one concern and that is about the Act's provision for the appointment of information officers," says Russel Stromin, chairman of Waspa's Code of Conduct working group.

"Better control of our personal information in today's highly-connected society is a must and the Act puts SA right up there. However, one of the Act's key provisions - the appointment of information officers - is somewhat unclear. It may be important to open this as an area of debate before promulgation of the Act," says Stromin.

To navigate PPI, people have to keep referring to the Protection of Information Act, which makes it hard to work out exactly what is meant, says Stromin.

Chapter five of the pending law introduces the concept of the information officer, and makes it clear that this individual is necessary both for public and private bodies. In private companies, the information officer will be the head of the entity, based on legal definitions contained in the Protection of Access to Information Act (PAIA), says Waspa.

Section 56 of PPI mandates that public and private bodies must make provision for deputy information officers, who will be the people actually doing the work, notes Waspa.

However, PAIA refers exclusively to public bodies. "We wonder whether the phrase 'with the necessary changes' is broad enough to widen the scope of this section so substantially -especially as private bodies are dealt with separately and in some detail elsewhere in the PAIA," says Stromin.

"We think debate will help obtain clarity prior to the implementation of a sorely-needed and welcome piece of legislation," Stromin adds.

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