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Privacy South Africa

Privacy South Africa is a web site designed to promote personal privacy and expose those who disregard the privacy of individuals in South Africa, because they are greedy and selfish and don’t consider the welfare of others, or just because they are ignorant.

Here’s a Riddle:

Q: What belongs to you but is used mostly by other people?

A: Your name

We believe that you should be able to protect the privacy of your contact details as much as you can protect your name.

The Right to Privacy

The Constitution of South Africa makes provision for the right to privacy:

14. Everyone has the right to privacy, which includes the right not to have
  1. their person or home searched;
  2. their property searched;
  3. their possessions seized; or
  4. the privacy of their communications infringed.

There is a really good summary on the Privacy Law web site. Also check out the privacy chapter written in the first edition of Cyberlaw@SA (SA's first Internet law textbook), which is freely available at http://www.cyberlawsa.co.za/cyberlaw/cybertext/chapter13.htm. The author, Reinhardt Buys, now runs his own law firm.

One of the laws that enshrine this provision of the constitution is the Rental Housing Act 50 of 1999. Click on the link to read about avoiding the "Landlady from Hell" syndrome. If I'd known about these law firms I might well have sent her a lawyer's letter.


It's a very SPECIAL credit card ...

I have a love-hate relationship with my Medical "Aid". When Discovery Health introduced their credit card, I thought this would be brilliant, because I could finally keep my medical expenses separate from my daily household expenses, to manage my cash flow better. It was too good to be true.

The first thing I noticed that was a bit strange is that they send the credit card statements via email, in a PDF file. They make a big song and dance about how secure this is, because the PDF file is "encrypted".

"Attached to this e-mail is your encrypted Discovery Card account statement. Your statement is encrypted to ensure the secure transmission of your information across the Internet and non-secure networks."
But what's the point of an "encrypted" PDF file that ANYONE with a free Acrobat 6.0 Reader can read? That's no more encrypted than sending a ZIP file without a password! It may not be ASCII, but anyone can read it. The Discovery credit card is the only card in the world with 0-bit encryption! It is no more secure than any other PDF file, in spite of their assurances.

To make matters worse, the attachment name was "4901 3800 8391 4000.PDF", which looked remarkably like a credit card number. And guess what? Attachment names are stored in email messages as plain ASCII text. Every time they send me an email they include a number that looks exactly like a credit card number, so every hacker in the world scanning email traffic for credit card numbers was going to become VERY INTERESTED in my monthly statement. The attachment name has now (Sept 2005) changed to something more sensible. But all a hacker need to do is open the attachment, and they discover my name, my postal address, my credit limits, and my current balance. On page 2 they find my credit card number and my wife's credit card number. Maybe that's why it's called a "discovery" card.

It's nice to know that after sending out accounts with weird attachment names for nearly a year, they have finally changed it. But both FNB and Discovery are still happy to send and receive both credit card account numbers and credit card numbers via email.

... it spends your money for you!

This is the part I love the best: if you don't keep a very beady eye on your medical claims, you could suddenly "discover" that you have had up to R2500 deducted from your card without you signing for it. Hidden away in the fine print of the terms and conditions of your card in the most boring section called "Section B: Account charges and fees" you will find:

23. Medical Budget Facility (“MBF”)
  • The MBF allows you to pay for medical transactions on your credit card account which would ordinarily have been covered under the rules of the Scheme, but which are not paid due to your Medical Savings Account having been exhausted or because you have exceeded a benefit limit in terms of the rules of the Scheme.
  • You are not required to produce the card at the point of sale or service. This means that amounts may be debited off your account to pay for medical transactions contemplated in clause 23.1 and you will not be asked to specifically authorise and approve the transactions at the relevant point of service or sale. By accepting the terms and conditions of the card you agree to irrevocably and unconditionally pre-authorise and approve Discovery Health to pay on your behalf for the medical transactions set out in clause 23.1 as and when you and/or authorised users of the card accept the benefits of the relevant health service or products, and to debit your credit card account accordingly. You are therefore encouraged to monitor your MBF usage at all times.
  • The MBF transaction will be authorised or declined by Discovery Health, in their sole discretion, depending on whether or not there is sufficient credit limit on the MBF to settle the transaction.
  • If your Medical Savings Account has sufficient funds to settle only part of the medical claim, the transaction will be settled partly from your Medical Savings Account and the balance of the transaction will be settled from the MBF.

The emphasis in red is mine, and the font size is much bigger. In spite of the fact that they state “You are therefore encouraged to monitor your MBF usage at all times” they make it incredibly obscure for you to do so, and even once the amount is deducted from your card there is no breakdown on your card statement. (This was fixed after about 6 months of complaints from customers). You have to find those details in a separate section of their web site, or notice the “MBF” column on your claim statement that arrives long after the amount was deducted.

Also, notice the spin-doctoring: “.. the amount may be deducted ...” and “... you are encouraged ...”. What they should say is whether you like it or no we will deduct the money from your credit card without your explicit knowledge or permission and we will hide this fact from you in obscure parts of our web site until it is too late for you to do anything about it.

To make it even more obscure, there is no mention whatsoever in the Discovery Health Fact File” of the MBF, and the “Claims Tracker” doesn't show any amounts deducted from the MBF either. The “Self Payment Gap Report” doesn't work, and the claim statement has an obscure “reason code” that reads

“295 We have paid an amount on this line from your DiscoveryCard's Medical Budget Facility. Please refer to your DiscoveryCard statement for further details or visit www.discovery.co.za.”
Of course the catch is that the discovery card statement doesn't show any details at all (only the total amount deducted), and the web site has it hidden under “Your Discovery Card” -> “Medical Budget Facility” -> “MBF Transactions”, and not under the “Your Health Plan” at all.

Isn't it just wonderful how much you can “discover” once it is too late?


Before You Read Any Further ...
If you have an open mind and a sense of humour;
and
if you are over 18 years old;
and
if you can handle reading robust criticism;
and
if you agree to the terms and conditions of this web site (see below);
and
the conditions on the right do NOT apply, then you may read further.

I Agree

If you are a lawyer for, or an employee of, Telkom, Sentech, Fin Dynamic, Blackwood Mall, Equitac, TransUnionITC or Ster Kinekor;
or
if you don't know the difference between email and web pages, or have only just started exploring the internet and aren't sure exactly what a "browser" is;
or
if you are a US Citizen or voter;
or
if you object to nudity, violence, foul language or explicit sex:-

Rather  Click  Here

Now I'm confused. What should I do? Click Here


Web Site Terms and Conditions

  1. You understand that the opinions contained in this web site are published in the state of Utah, USA. As such they fall under the protection of freedom of speech of the USA constitution.
  2. You recognise that the South African constitution affords its citizens the right to freedom of expression. While the opinions contained herein are those of their respective authors, no attempt has been made to violate the rights or dignity of others by expressing them. If you disagree, then you undertake to contact the author in an amicable way, and agree to pursue all civilised means possible to resolve the differences of opinion, before threatening to take the matter to court.
  3. You undertake to inform the author of any factual inaccuracies, spelling mistakes and other problems that you may notice. You accept that all spelling blunders are the responsibility of the author.
  4. You have already to checked your system for viruses before visiting this web site, and installed and activated a suitable popup blocker.
  5. All graphics are the property of their respective publishers and trademark holders.
  6. Graphics are provided for illustrative purposes only, to provide colour and interest to an otherwise dull page. No further inference should be implied. Where applicable, a link is provided to the relevant web site.
  7. None of the companies or groups mentioned were approached for endorsement of the web site in any way, and no endorsement, approval, sanction or connection should be made between this web site and any other.
  8. All links to external web sites are provided for further information and discovery by the reader. No endorsement or disapproval should be inferred by the provision of an external link. And the target web site is likely to change. But you knew that already.
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  11. This web site is run as a hobby by a private individual.
  12. There are no guarantees, express or implied, by this site. Don't rely on it for any kind of earth-shattering, personal, business, private, or money-making decision. But then you knew that too.
  13. You understand what "smiley" graphics mean and how to interpret them.Big Smile [:D]
  14. Your browser may warn you that "cookies" are being created to other web sites. Nothing sinister should be inferred from this. Because the graphics come from a wide variety of sources, there are a wide variety of ways the different servers handle this. They could also be the work of the ads servers at the top of this page.
  15. This web site has only been tested using Internet Explorer and Firefox on Windows 98. If other browsers or other operating systems give unintended results, PGP Public Keyplease contact the author.
  16. Americans, particularly US voters, are not welcome to this web site. You don't own the planet, or the internet, and your President is not the saviour of the world, but a miserable failure. Rather visit your idol worship web site.
  17. If you contact the author your name will not be placed on any mailing lists or disclosed to any other party without your express permission. Unless you send me a threatening legal letter. Then your email address is published on this site, as part of the letter. And you know what that means ... Evil [):]
  18. You have a supply of several pinches of salt, to be taken during reading. So lighten up and enjoy.Wink [;)]


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This page last updated: 14/07/2006 20:17