DA’s SMS barrages asking for IDs to opt out are ‘probably illegal’

Experts have slammed the approach as a violation of privacy.

The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) request that those who want to opt out from receiving their SMSes and phone calls first provide their identity numbers could be a violation of the Protection of Personal Information (Popi) Act, according to law experts.

A few months ahead of this year’s elections, several people took to social media to share their frustration with the party’s constant “forced” interactions with them, some even going as far as calling it harassment and an outright invasion of privacy.

Most questioned how the party got hold of their personal details and some were even more upset about being asked to submit even more information in the form of their ID numbers to opt out of the unwanted communication.

DA national spokesperson Solly Malatsi said the party was in full compliance with the law in this regard.

He said: “We believe our efforts to proactively engage voters are consistent within the law and appreciated by voters who value regular interactions with the party and gain valuable information from such interactions … Every time anyone wants to opt out or unsubscribe, we process it.”

Legal expert June Marks felt differently, saying it was a “frightening” violation and invasion of privacy and the best way to deal with it was to report it to the Electoral Commission of SA. However, another legal expert, Natasha Moni, said the potential violation of the Popi Act depended on how it managed to get the lists of personal information and whether its marketing research company’s source attained the information legally.

If the DA was able to justify its actions to the regulator, it was not a contravention of the act. However, if it could not, that was where it would have to be held accountable.

Despite this, she said, the party should not be asking for ID numbers, as there was “no plausible reason to do so”.

Moni continued: “When people get those SMSes or phone calls they should refrain from responding directly to them, otherwise they will not stop. “Instead, they should go straight to the [Popi Act] regulator and report the matter and opt out from there. There is no possible or plausible reason why [the DA] should request for your ID, which is so dear to your privacy.

“The good thing about the regulator is that they can claim for damages on your behalf if any practice by any entity contravenes that act”.

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