IEC to publish your voters’ addresses – should you be concerned about privacy?

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Registered South African voters will for the first time have their home addresses published on the voters’ roll, which may be a cause for concern as it’s publicly available to virtually anyone.

Marianne Merten’s piece published in the Daily Maverick yesterday highlights the fact that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) on Tuesday announced it has been compelled by the Constitutional Court to add the home addresses of anyone registered on the national and provincial voters’ roll.

The voters’ roll is given to all registered political parties and candidates, and is available until the day of elections to the general public who can access it by heading to their nearest IEC office to request to see it, according to the commission’s website.

“If your address conforms to the more traditional street addresses in urban areas, or possibly even the system of numbered shacks in many of the country’s informal settlements, it will be there in public for anyone to see,” Merten said.

The ConCourt’s decision is as a result of a situation that arose in 2013 in the Tlokwe Municipalty by-elections when the municipality over the voters’ roll to candidates and political parties late, did not include voter’s addresses which lead to incorrect registering of voters in wards.

Merten added that according to IEC regulation, accessing voter’s details for reasons outside those related to elections is an offence, and that the commission has promised to do all it can to prevent any breaches of privacy.

To do this, candidates and parties will have to sign a confidentiality agreement.

“So what’s stopping any marketing company, spook, police official, or anyone else for that matter, to snap a photo with a smart phone or tablet? Nothing, really,” Merten adds.

“It has already happened that political parties have acquired personal details: using names and ID numbers in the voters’ roll is enough to acquire other data like phone numbers via those companies making a living from personal information,” she adds using the example of the DA who have in the past obtained voters’ mobile numbers to send unsolicited election campaign SMSes.

It’s also well-known that some companies sell consumer’s details to marketing agencies (e.g those annoying calls about offers you get from insurance, loan etc).

So one can’t rule out the possibility of someone working for such a company heading over to an IEC office posing as a voter looking for the voters’ roll and sneaking a photo of the list.

“The Protection of Personal Information Act passed in Parliament in 2013 has yet to be activated,” Merten said. “According to insiders Ellipsis Regulatory Solutions, the legislation can only be expected to come into force in mid-2017 at the earliest”.

You also can’t remove yourself from the voter’s roll unless you’re dead, according to the IEC.

Basically, there’s not much you can do except hope that no one out there is gunning for your home address to use to harm you or harass you in anyway.

[Source – Daily Maverick]