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Cybercrimes Act of 2020

The Cybercrimes Act: Eyes And Ears Are Everywhere

With the Cybercrimes Act of 2020 (the “Act”) recently being signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa now stands on par with similar global legislation dealing with cyber and electronic communications offences. 

The purpose of this Act is, among other things, “to create offences which have a bearing on cybercrime; to criminalise the disclosure of data messages which are harmful …” and creates mechanisms and procedures for determining and prosecuting the criminalised activities enumerated therein. 

Under this Act, it is now an offence to disclose harmful data messages and malicious communications, such as those which incite damage to property or violence; which threaten persons with damage to property or violence; or images of an intimate nature disclosed without the subject’s consent.  

It is also an offence to unlawfully intercept data, including the “examination or inspection of the contents of the data” when one is not the lawful owner or holder. Other offences now criminalised by the Act include fraud, forgery and extortion of a cyber nature. 

A person who contravenes certain provisions of the Act may face a fine or imprisonment of up to 15 years or both. 

Another interesting provision is that electronic communications service providers (such as Vodacom, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) who become aware of offences listed in the Act must, within 72 hours, report the offence to the South African Police Services and further preserve the information relating to the offence to assist the Police. 

With data being defined in the Act as “electronic representations of information in any form”, this piece of legislation goes a long way to protect and enforce data security. However, it also places every person with virtually any form of access to electronic communications or data storage devices in a position of great responsibility, as the provisions are stringent and the consequences of violation thereof are severe.

If you have any questions about other Cyber, Labour or Land issues, contact McCarthy & Associates Attorneys on (033) 266 6170 or  admin@maalaw.co.za. 

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