In terms of section 8.2 of the Electronic, Communications, Postal and Broadcasting Directions, the Minister of Communications has directed that the South African Post Office may make available its national address system and any other applicable database to assist authorities to identify and trace individuals who are infected by COVID-19, and others who have been in contact with infected persons. The information that the Post Office makes available may further be correlated with other sources from government and even private sector.
In order to give effect to this need, permission to do so has been issued in the ICT COVID-19 National Disaster Regulations. The details will be made available by the Post Office upon written request by relevant officials of the Department of Health, law enforcement agencies or other organs of state involved with the management and control of the spread of COVID-19.
The extraordinary governmental measures such as this track-and-trace system may be considered a serious limitation of individuals’ constitutional and common law right to privacy. Although the Protection of Personal Information Act 2013 is not yet in force, entities still have common law obligations in relation to individuals’ personal information. This duty will apply to the Post Office, government and private sector, to the extent that they disclose personal information of individuals to the relevant authorities under COVID-19 regulations. The Information Regulator has also issued a guidance note on the processing of personal information in relation to COVID-19. Companies in the private sector may have further contractual obligations to their clients to secure their personal information and notify them of the disclosure of their personal information. Entities must ensure that they take sufficiently appropriate steps to verify and authenticate any requests for the disclosure of personal information of individuals, and disclose only as much information as is required by the relevant regulations.
It is not clear whether any specific identification must accompany the written request for the information or whether there are specific officials identified to ensure there is no abuse of the request for the information. Nonetheless, the South African Post Office is giving effect to the Directions in order to ensure timeous tracking of infected or potentially infected individuals, in order to curb the spread of the virus.
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa published the regulations under notice no. 238, dated 6 April 2020 (ICT COVID-19 National Disaster Regulations). The ICT COVID-19 National Disaster Regulations have been published in compliance with the postal and broadcasting directions issued by the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies in terms of Regulation 10(8) of the Disaster Management Act 2002.