Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba’s ‘sex video’ went viral, and social media lawyers have responded with warnings that digital devices should never be left unattended.

Social media lawyers have urged mobile phone users not to leave their devices unattended and in active mode, to safeguard their information. 

The warning comes after Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba’s “sex video” went viral. The minister is seen in the “leaked” video performing a solo sexual act, which he said was intended for his wife’s eyes only. 

This sparked an outcry on social media, with some calling for him to resign while others poked fun at him in memes and songs. The minister has since claimed his phone was “intercepted/hacked” in 2016/17 and the contents used to blackmail him.

Verlie Oosthuizen, a social media lawyer, said there are various ways in which data on a cellphone can be compromised. “If a person is not careful about their phone security, does not have passwords or lock their phone, then it could be picked up by others, whilst unattended and the private content can then be forwarded from that device to others. 

“However, it is not that easy to hack a phone. It will usually have to be as a result of some kind of specialised intervention that is most likely unlawful in itself,” said Oosthuizen.

She also advised against readily sharing personal or intimate information with strangers.
“A healthy scepticism is useful when receiving emails asking for information. Hacking is unlawful, and the interception of electronic communications is prohibited by statute unless you have a court order which will only be granted on compelling grounds.” 

Oosthuizen said those who think their phones have been hacked should report the incidents to the police.
“They may investigate criminal charges in terms of Rica or the Electronic Communications Act. If a person shares intimate images of an ex-partner following a break-up, they could be charged with crimen injuria. They could also be issued with a protection from harassment order.”

Another social media lawyer Emma Sadleir echoed Oosthuizen’s sentiments, advising users should ask people to send a written notice that proves messages were deleted after exchanging explicit images.

“If they refuse to provide it or are threatening to disseminate the pictures or sex tape unless you pay money and provide favours, go to a local magistrate’s court and get a protection order against that person under the Protection from Harassment Act. Or if you were in a relationship the Protection from Domestic Violence Act.”

The Sunday Independent