The Information Regulator has raised concerns regarding the handling of personal information during the coming elections.
The regulator, in partnership with the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) and Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), hosted the International Data Privacy Day Webinar, focusing on misinformation, disinformation and data protection ahead of the elections.
The electoral process, by its nature, dictates the processing of personal information of millions of eligible voters by the IEC and other participants such as political parties, particularly during their campaigns.
Chairperson of the Information Regulator, advocate Pansy Tlakula, said they had some concerns regarding the handling of personal information during the election.
“With the forthcoming general elections, the regulator has two primary concerns which are the handling of personal information of the voters by political parties and other role-players in the electoral process, and the phenomenon of misinformation and disinformation which poisons the well of free-flowing, credible, reliable, and accurate information necessary for making an informed choice, especially during the elections,” she said.
MMA communications manager Nomshado Lubisi-Nkosinkulu, said democracy was under threat.
“South Africa is dealing with unprecedented threats and political analysts are calling the upcoming election period as one of the most crucial and potentially aggressive election periods in our young democracy. It is for this reason that forming a multi-stakeholder partnership is important and using dedicated tools such as Real411 will also help mitigate and investigate disinformation and other online threats during the election period as it offers one central place for the public to report such threats regardless of the platform.”
IEC CEO Sy Mamabolo said the IEC monitored digital platforms and IEC central email for reports of disinformation and misinformation, and it had education programmes for users of social media and digital platforms. The IEC said it also had a Framework of Co-operation signed with Google, Meta, TikTok and Media Monitoring Africa to address disinformation challenges, and promote conditions for free and fair elections.