Following the recent European Court Of Justice ruling in which Google must respect an individual’s right to be forgotten, we looked into what this right means for South Africans.

Below is a summary of your right to be forgotten in terms of South African legislation. It is important to note that South African law does not explicitly recognise a general right to be forgotten, but some laws dealing with privacy, access to information and freedom of speech implicitly recognise the right.

Please forget me

The Constitution

The Constitution contains general rights to dignity and privacy. Privacy rights can be limited by rights to freedom of expression and access to information.

POPI

The Act states that personal information may only be stored or used if it is:

  • adequate,
  • relevant and
  • not excessive in relation to its purpose.

Personal information cannot normally be kept longer than necessary, and outdated, incomplete, misleading or inaccurate data must also be corrected or deleted.

The Consumer Protection Act

The Act gives rights to consumers to put their names and contact details on a pre-emptive ‘do-not-contact’ direct marketing register, such as the Direct Marketing Association’s ‘opt-out’ register.

The National Credit Act

Credit providers are required to destroy certain credit-related information after the relevant retention period (the general rule is that the smaller the debt, the sooner the information must be destroyed).

The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act

The act provides for a procedure where you can, by way of a take-down notification, demand that information service providers remove or disable access to ‘unlawful’ activity or content.