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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

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POPIA: What it means for WhatsApp groups

File picture: Reuters/Dado Ruvic

File picture: Reuters/Dado Ruvic

Published Jul 1, 2021


The Protection of Personal Information Act, also known as the POPI Act or POPIA, is coming into full effect on Thursday.

Section 69 of the POPIA, which related to direct marketing by means of unsolicited electronic communications, states:

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“The processing of personal information of a data subject for the purpose of direct marketing by means of any form of electronic communication, including automatic calling machines, facsimile machines, SMSs, or email is prohibited unless the data subject—

has given his, her or its consent to the processing; or

is, subject to subsection (3), a customer of the responsible party.“

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It is worth noting that the definition in the Popia refers to electronic communications and not telemarketing. Therefore it relates to SMS marketing, automated calling machines, and email.

People on the database must agree to receive direct marketing from the company before they can be contacted. People must also have the option to opt out.

This includes the ability to opt-out of marketing communications and informing clients about how they can access and manage the private information that the company processes about them.

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So while we are on the topic of communication, what about WhatsApp messages?

There has been a chain message doing the rounds on popular messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Telegram that includes a disclaimer.

An example of a message like this looks something like this.

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Hi everyone,

We just need to share a POPIA disclaimer as all WhatsApp groups need to adhere to the Act from 1 July 2021.

As we all know the compliance due date for the Protection of Personal Information Act, 4 of 2013 (“POPIA”), being 30 June 2021, is steadfastly approaching. This deadline brings a few changes.

One of these changes is that the administrators will be required to obtain your consent for being part of this WhatsApp group. As such, you are herewith notified that you are entitled to refuse such consent and you may exercise such a right by leaving this group.

Should you elect to remain in this group, it will be accepted that you have consented to being a part of this group and to your personal information (being your cellphone number and name) being noticeable to any person in this group.

In this regard, we implore all members of this group not to make use of such personal information for whatsoever reason, without obtaining the consent of the relevant person.

Do NOT reply to this Notice. If You Do NOT want or Need 2b On Group Feel Free to remove Yourself.

Thank You


According to media reports, there is no need for group administrators to send out this message.

If it is a friend, family group or a meme-sharing WhatsApp group, you do not need consent but the kinder thing to do is sending the person an invitation link to the WhatsApp group instead of adding them.

It is different with non-personal, formal and business group.

It is important to note that a person or businesses that create groups to market their goods and services must get consent before adding. Like with personal groups, you could also try sending a link instead of directly adding them. It is also advisable to post a notice and basic rules on formal or non-personal groups.


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