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Have you ever typed your name into Google and cringed at the results?

South Africans are currently unable to ask for Google to remove search result links associated with their names.

But this could slightly change once the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) is introduced into law, says social media law expert Verlie Oosthuizen.

Oosthuizen explains that there is no ‘right to be forgotten’ in South Africa.

The 'right to be forgotten' is the concept that individuals have the civil right to request that personal information be removed from the internet.

Oosthuizen said that this rule will likely change when the POPIA, but the 'right to be forgotten' will only be applicable in very limited circumstances.

You'd have to go through a whole lot checks and balances before that information can be destroyed.

Verlie Oosthuizen, Partner and Head of Social Media Law at Shepstone & Wylie Attorneys

Citizens may be able to make a request for search results to be removed if the information is outdated, untrue or defamatory.

However, public figures and citizens do not enjoy the same protection in terms of this digital privacy, Oosthuizen warns.

The whole reason that this ‘Right to be Forgotten’ came about was because of a person who was not well-known, he kept on appearing on a Google search relating to the seizure of property 10 years before.

Verlie Oosthuizen, Partner and Head of Social Media Law at Shepstone & Wylie Attorneys

Once the information is out there, it's out there. That's the problem with the digital age. It's very difficult to get information down once it's up.

Verlie Oosthuizen, Partner and Head of Social Media Law at Shepstone & Wylie Attorneys

Listen to the discussion on The John Maytham Show:

This article first appeared on CapeTalk : South Africans can't ask Google to remove their names from searches - yet

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