Publishing matric results isn't contravention of POPI Act: Information Regulator

It appears the Information Regulator informed the department that there would be no contravention of the act if it published matric results on media platforms as per the norm.

FILE: The Information Regulator is an independent body established to monitor and enforce compliance by public and private bodies with the POPI Act. Picture:  Eyewitness News.

JOHANNESBURG - The information used for the publishing of matric results in media does not contravene the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act, according to the Information Regulator of South Africa.

This is despite the Department of Basic Education announcing it would no longer publish matric results in the media to protect the privacy of pupils, a decision the department had said was informed by discussions held with the regulator.

The Information Regulator is an independent body established to monitor and enforce compliance by public and private bodies with the POPI Act.

On Tuesday morning, the High Court in Pretoria granted AfriForum and others an urgent interdict, forcing the department to release the 2021 matric results on media platforms.

It appears the Information Regulator informed the department that there would be no contravention of the act if it published matric results on media platforms as per the norm.

It is unclear how the department then arrived at its decision.

“The Information Regulator had an opportunity to sit down with officials from the Department of [Basic] Education to go through all the measures they take to de-identify the information. The regulator is not an expert on these issues. We needed to sit down and talk to the experts and took the advice of council, then we agreed that the information was sufficiently de-identified,” said the regulator’s Alison Tilley.

Tilley said there would be an opportunity for aggrieved pupils who feel that their personal information has been compromised to raise their concerns.

A 'VICTORY'

Meanwhile, AfriForum said its victory against the Department of Basic Education would ensure that no pupil was prejudiced against when matric results are released this week.

AfriForum’s Natasha Venter said the department had enough time to thoroughly consult on the issue before making the public announcement but failed to do so.

“The information is in the public’s interest. People should be able to analyse the matric results data and have the necessary checks and balances in place. The department should not have a monopoly on that information and the matriculants need to gain access to their results as soon as possible.”