What is this ‘POPI’ act everyone talks about?

POPI refers to South Africa’s Protection of Personal Information Bill which seeks to regulate the Processing of Personal Information.

Personal Information  means any information relating to an identifiable, living natural person or juristic person (companies, CC’s etc.) and includes, but is not limited to:

  • Contact details:email, telephone, address etc.
  • Demographic information:age, sex, race, birth date, ethnicity etc.
  • History:employment, financial, educational, criminal, medical history
  • Biometric information:blood type etc.
  • Opinionsof and about the person.
personal info

Processing; meaning anything done with Personal Information. Which includes collection, usage, storage, dissemination, modification, or destruction (whether such processing is automated or not).

Some of the obligations under POPI are to:



  • Only collect information that you need for a specific purpose
  • Apply reasonable security measures to protect it
  • Ensure it is relevant and up to date
  • Only hold as much as you need, and only for as long as you need it
  • Allow the subject of the information to see it upon request

Does POPI really apply to me?



Accountability for compliance rests with a responsible party, meaning a public or private body or any other person which alone or in conjunction with others, determines the purpose of and means for processing personal information. Generally the responsible party must be resident in South Africa or, the processing should occur within South Africa (subject to certain exclusions) Section 3.

There are cases where POPI does not apply. Section 4 exclusions include:


  • Purely household or personal activity
  • Sufficiently de-identified information
  • Some state functions including criminal prosecutions, national security etc.
  • Journalism under a code of ethics
  • Judiciary functions etc.
Prohibiting sign

Why should I comply with POPI?


POPI promotes transparency with regard to what information is collected and the processing of that information. This understanding is likely to increase customer confidence in the organisation.

POPI compliance involves capturing the minimum required data, ensuring accuracy, and removing data that is no longer required. These measures are likely to improve the overall reliability of the organisation databases.

Compliance demands identifying Personal Information and taking reasonable measures to protect the data. This will likely reduce the risk of data breaches and the associated public relations and legal ramifications for the organisation.

Non-compliance with the Act could expose the responsible party to a penalty of a fine and / or imprisonment of up to 12 months. In certain cases, the penalty for non-compliance could be a fine and / or imprisonment of up 10 years. Section 99.

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