Every single person has the legal right to privacy in South Africa. There are many different forms of privacy and many ways in which they can be infringed. It is essential to understand your rights and know when they are being invaded or encroached on so that you can take action against the encroachers and stand up for your rights.
What is privacy?
Section 14 of the Constitution of South Africa and the common law includes the right to privacy and confidentiality for citizens. In extreme cases, the law may grant certain individuals or organisations the right to encroach on a citizen’s privacy if it is necessary.
However, because privacy is such an important right, the situation would have to meet several specific criteria for this to be granted. Internationally, privacy is also held as an important right. According to ISPA.org, the benchmark for modern privacy internationally is found in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Different forms of privacy
There are several different types of privacy and this enables us to categorise the types of infringement and work out what the penalty for each is. The following is a list and explanation of some of the different kinds of privacy.
- Bodily privacy
This means that no one else may touch your body or invade your physical space without your consent. This protects people, in certain situations, from invasive procedures like cavity searches. Unless you are forced by law to allow someone to infringe on your bodily privacy, you do have the right to say no to any invasive procedure and to have your wishes respected.
- Privacy of communication
This category protects the privacy of the content of your telephone calls, SMSs, emails, faxes and all other forms of communication as well as the identity of the people with whom you are communicating. Again, in certain circumstances the law might allow some people or organisations to encroach upon your privacy of communication if it is necessary.
- Territorial privacy
This means that no one may intrude on your home, office or property without your permission. This right also means that no one may plant video or audio surveillance. Again, with the permission of the law, certain individuals may enter your property.
- Privacy of information and data
The right to privacy of information and data means that no one may have access to any of your personal information. This information includes your medical and financial records and any other data that is private to you. Again, the justice system may grant permission for individuals to demand access to your information and data if necessary.
A consumer’s right to privacy
According to the Consumer Protection Act all consumers have the right to privacy from marketers and businesses trying to sell their products. The Consumer Protection Act protects consumers on a number of levels, including privacy, and ensures that businesses do not overstep their boundaries and the law in their attempts to sell their products. The following are two ways in which the privacy of the consumer is protected:
- The consumer has the right to restrict unwanted direct marketing
The consumer has every right to refuse to accept or block any communication from potential sellers about goods they wish to sell to the consumer. The consumer may also request that the marketer no longer contact them and have this wish respected. Businesses must ensure that they have systems in place to hear requests and complaints for direct marketing to be discontinued or for only selected types of marketing to be used. Direct marketing may include telephone calls, SMSs, emails, faxes, letters and brochures in the post.
- The consumer has the right to regulate the times that they are contacted
There are times when consumers may not wish to be contacted and for reasonable times, like public holidays, Sundays and at night, they may request that they are not contacted for direct marketing and have their wishes respected.