Personal Data Protection Act After 6 Months

Businesses from banks to property agents, those offering lucky draw, organisations and places which requires you to change your NRIC for a pass for entry would be affected when the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) comes into force next July when businesses have to comply by then. Many of us who had to surrender our IC or had to give an incomplete or fake NRIC when filling up forms by companies knowing that our personal data would be traded around behind our backs are now potentially protected. Businesses can’t peddle our phone numbers away for us to be harassed by another company selling insurance, a time share, a financial product, a survey, without our consent.

The No-Call Registry starting in January 2014 is an interesting repository of “do not harass me” handphone numbers. Companies can be fined up to $1 million by the Personal Data Protection Commission if the PDPA is flouted. Unless the commission is in reality all bark, no bite as they are flooded with complaints and paralysed into inaction. Still, be sure to register your handphone number if you are bothered by callers trying to sell you something.

There would be new industries – companies offering personal data protection services to SMEs. As companies and organisations big and small need personal data officers once they collect customer personal information, this is a niche skill set, like MAS compliance officers maybe. Companies are scratching their heads to get around the PDPA since collecting IC numbers would be increasingly frowned upon. Handphone numbers would be more important than before as personal identification although the PDPA also covers its collection, storage and use.

The PDPA is the right step ahead, similar to the UK’s 1998 Data Protection Act where it protects an individual’s right to privacy. Would Singapore also introduce a Freedom of Information Act like the UK, which is an act about the state’s responsibility for transparency?

Businesses want more clarity on Personal Data Protection Act

SINGAPORE — The newly-enacted Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), which requires individuals to be informed and consent gained if organisations are collecting personal data, does not prescribe the circumstances under which NRIC numbers should be provided — posing a conundrum for some organisations here as they adjust their policies and practices.

The collection of NRIC numbers is a common practice among a variety of businesses here and those which spoke to TODAY said it serves verification and audit purposes to ascertain a person’s identity and they would like more clarity on the laws.

For example, telecommunications companies need customers’ NRIC numbers for regulatory requirements and some businesses ask visitors for NRIC numbers before they are allowed to enter secured office premises.

Responding to TODAY’s queries, a spokesperson for the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) said it will be publishing the final advisory guidelines to organisations before the end of this year. It had conducted two public consultations — one ended in April, the other last month — after it published an initial set of advisory guidelines on its website.

The Act does not prescribe the type of personal information an organisation can collect. Nevertheless, the PDPC guidelines said: “As a best practice, organisations should avoid over-collecting personal data, including NRIC numbers, where this is not required for their business or legal purposes. Organisations should consider whether there may be alternatives available that address their requirements.”

TGIF Bazaars, the operator for Sentosa’s Boardwalk Bazaars, said it needed vendors to produce either their NRIC, passport, Work Pass or business registration numbers in order to secure a booth.

Its spokesman pointed out that these identification numbers are the “only known ways” to validate the legality of a vendor’s participation and it is “a part of our responsibility” to request for such information. These numbers may also be needed for accounting and audit and may also be “required” by the authorities here, he added.

SingTel said it had several ways to verify the identity of its customers. “At our shops, verification is done by checking customers’ NRIC. Another way is to send a one-time password to customers’ mobile phone via SMS,” said a company spokesperson.

While it does not share personal information with any third-party organisations without consumers’ expressed permission, SingTel said NRIC numbers are collected as part of regulatory requirements when customers subscribe to its services.

During the PDPC’s public consultation in April, some companies also called for the commission to provide more clarity on the use and collection of NRIC numbers. For example, the Singapore Press Holdings asked for clarification on whether an individual can be refused entry into secured office premises if they object to their NRIC card being retained.

The PDPC had previously noted that NRIC numbers are of “special concern” to individuals as they are unique to each person and are used in many official transactions with the Government.

Government agencies and statutory boards are excluded from the law — which was passed in Parliament in October last year — as they are governed by internal rules, most of which have not been made public.

Organisations have 18 months to adjust to the Act, between January this year and July next year, when the rules come into force.

Under the Act, organisations must make “reasonable” security arrangements to protect personal data in its possession or under its control in order to prevent unauthorised access, collection, use, disclosure, copying, modification, disposal or “similar risks”.

The PDPC noted that there is no “one size fits all” solution for organisations to comply with the new law and each organisation should consider adopting security arrangements that are “reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances”.

“Organisations such as TGIF Bazaars are advised to review their processes that involve personal data, including NRIC numbers, to ensure that they comply with the PDPA when the act comes into effect. There is no enforcement during the transition period,” the PDPC spokesperson said.

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Lynn Lee Contempt of Court? No

Clearly guilty of contempt of court would be Shane Todd’s parents rather than Lynn Lee the filmmaker who made the video that 2 SMRT bus drivers were supposedly beaten during police interrogation. Shane Todd’s parents, in their denial and warped conspiracy theory that the US, China and Singapore governments were in collusion and covering up the murder of their son by PRC assassins, said outrightly that the court was corrupt. I don’t remember Lynn Lee doing or saying of anything of that sort.

Lynn Lee is merely guilty of advocating the SMRT strike cause. She knew the strike was illegal and once she heard about the plight of the drivers regardless if she believed it or not, realised that it was a good story and opportunity to give the drivers their point of view and accounts of police abuse in a video.  Which is all fine as it is merely pushing across a different perspective.

She worked with Jolovan Wham and others in lobbying for the SMRT strike drivers – HOME, TWC2, SDP altogether championed a lost cause as the strike was illegal and nobody wanted to support foreigners in the xenophobic climate in Singapore now. Idealistic in views, opportunistic in telling stories, but not contempt of court. The court warning to her is merely hot air, albeit she would be more careful of making similar videos in future. Who wouldn’t?

AGC sends warning to filmmaker for contempt of court

SINGAPORE: The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has sent a warning to filmmaker Lee Seng Lynn, for posting online videos which contained allegations made by ex-SMRT bus drivers.

In a statement released on Friday afternoon, the AGC said it has issued a letter of warning to Ms Lee through her lawyer, for having committed sub judice contempt of court.

In January 2013, she had made public videos of interviews with two ex-SMRT drivers from China, who were charged with instigating other SMRT bus drivers to join the November 2012 illegal strike.

In the video, the two drivers, He Junling, 32, and Liu Xiang Ying, 33, had alleged that they were physically abused and threatened by their interrogators when in police custody sometime after the strike.

AGC said at the time of publication, Ms Lee was aware that criminal proceedings against He and Liu, as well as two other ex-drivers from China, Gao Yue Qiang and Wang Xianjie, were pending.

The criminal proceedings against the former bus drivers ended in February.

AGC said it has completed its review of Ms Lee’s conduct and found that her conduct created “a real risk of prejudice to the criminal proceedings pending then”.

It added that such conduct “can obstruct the determination of the truth or erode respect for our judicial institutions”.

This, it said, would in turn harm the public interest in the proper administration of justice.

But AGC is of the view that a warning is sufficient in this case, rather than court action against her for contempt of court.

Separately, the AGC said it is aware of remarks made by the family of the late Mr Shane Todd in relation to the coroner’s inquiry, which is currently in progress.

The AGC urged the public and the media not to make or report any statements “which could be construed as trying to improperly influence the decision of the coroner, or cast aspersions on the independence of this proceeding.”

Free My Internet Blackout

The government already said bloggers would not need to apply for the licence, posting of a $50,000 performance bond and taking down of “objectionable” content within 24 hrs.

 

Symbolic and more showy than effective. Instead of continuing to voice opinions and allowing readers the choice to read and agree or disagree with the opinions on housing, transport, education and other policy imperfections, some bloggers decided to silence themselves and take a break. Playing into the government’s hands, this time the self-censorship is for a day, so the next time it is for a week, a month?

 

Web ‘blackout’ in Singapore
Published: 6 Jun 2013 at 11.49
Online news: Asia

SINGAPORE – Over 130 Singaporean bloggers blacked out their homepages Thursday in protest at new licencing rules for news websites they say will muzzle freedom of expression.

The 134 participants, including individual bloggers and community-based blogs, replaced their homepages with black screens featuring the words “#FreeMyInternet”, as well as the time and venue of a rally to be held Saturday. The 24-hour blackout was to last until midnight.

The protest comes after surprise regulations came into force on June 1 requiring news websites — including one operated by US-based Yahoo! — to obtain licences from the city-state’s official media regulator.

“This is not just a movement by socio-political blogs. The participating websites are from all genres from lifestyle and food, to technology,” said Choo Zheng Xi, a spokesman for the “Free My Internet” group that organised the protest.

“The diversity reflects an awareness that the new regulations can affect anyone because it has been framed so widely,” added Choo, the co-founder of popular political website The Online Citizen.

A rally will be held Saturday at a designated free-speech area, where police permits are not required.

Singapore’s media regulator, the Media Development Authority (MDA), and government leaders have sought to allay fears over the past week that the new rules were aimed at the feisty blogging community, pointing out that blogs were not considered news portals.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim on Tuesday dismissed claims by bloggers that the new rules would impinge on Internet freedom.

“I think the best way for people to see, after the licences are issued, is whether the activists are indeed limited in their public discourse,” he told the local media.

“I hope that the activists who are today making this far-fetched claim will be honest enough to admit it when the time comes.”

Bloggers participating in the Internet blackout insisted that the broad power of the new rules were indicative of the government’s intentions to require blogs to seek licencing in the future as well.

The new rules stipulate that websites which have at least 50,000 unique visitors from Singapore every month and publish at least one local news article per week over a period of two months must obtain an annual licence.

“Although the government would say that my fears are ‘far-fetched’ and that I am over-reacting, I’m not happy to ‘wait and see’,” Kirsten Han, a socio-political blogger, told AFP.

“I don’t want to leave it up to trust that they won’t make use of the catch-all definitions to extend the licensing regime to other websites and blogs in the future,” she said.

Bloggers are Safe…For Now

MDA clarified that the new restrictive chokehold on news sites and the $50,000 bond would not extend to bloggers.

This move to control and censor, like gazetting The Online Citizen a “political association” in 2011 before GE 2011, is another sign that the PAP does not know what to do about news that it does not agree with. Rather than letting it be, they want to choke alternative news. They don’t trust us to decide for ourselves. Nonetheless, bloggers are exempted for now, and should not “worry”. The PAP decided that it does not need new controls on keyboard warriors and weekend political commentators. The Sedition Act stretched to its most plausible interpretation, is enough.

 

Views on personal websites, blogs do not amount to news reporting: MDA

SINGAPORE – An individual publishing views on current affairs and trends on his or her personal website or blog does not amount to news reporting, the Media Development Authority said on a Facebook post today.

The MDA also said that the licensing framework only applies to sites that focus on reporting Singapore news and who have been notified that they meet the licensing criteria.

MDA clarified that it “will only step in when complaints are raised to our attention, and we assess that the content is in breach of the content guidelines and merits action by the website owner”. They added that “the framework is not an attempt to influence the editorial slant of news sites.”

On Tuesday, the MDA announced that ten local news websites, with “significant reach” here and which report regularly on Singapore-related news, will now fall under a new licensing regime regulated by the Media Development Authority (MDA).

The news websites all belong to major broadcasters or publishers in Singapore, which are licensed, with the exception of Yahoo! Singapore News, which does not yet have a media licence.

The new licence requires the sites to comply within 24 hours, to any directives from the MDA to remove content found to be in breach of standards. The new licensing regime will provide clarity on these standards. For instance, prohibited material means any content that is “against public interest, public order, public security, national harmony, public morality”.

These sites are also required to put up a “performance bond” of S$50,000.

NMP Scheme, Still Here

The Nominated MP not elected MP, is another insult to the evolution of democracy in Singapore. Why are some of these people, esteemed no doubt, stellar clearly, passionate surely allowed to speak for us in parliament? They are not voted in. They did not stand for elections. Do NMPs improve the quality of debate, yes to an extent, but so what.  Parliament, with its NCMP and NMP, is a shoddy one with people inside who are not elected. What next, Short Term MPs for those who want to serve only one term, Special MPs who are not elected by sit on certain committees? All for the purpose of improving the debate, giving neutrality or compensating for the lack of real opposition elected MPs in parliament.  The scheme undermines the integrity of elected representatives in parliament  and the purist idea of the legislative.

It has been 21 years since the NMP was introduced. It’s time to kick them out of the house.

 

Public invited to submit names for NMPs
Submissions can be made at the Parliament House and the closing date for submissions will close on Dec 8.
Wed, Nov 02, 2011
AsiaOne

SINGAPORE – The Parliament of Singapore is calling for the general public to make nominations for Nomination Members of Parliament (NMP).

Potential nominees should have rendered distinguished public service or brought honour to the Republic.

They could also have distinguished themselves in the field of arts and letters, sports, culture, the sciences, business, industry, the professions, social or community service or the labour movement.

Candidates should also be citizens of Singapore, of the age of 21 years or above on the day of nomination and currently on the register of electors.

They should be residents in Singapore at the date of nomination and have been residents for not less than 10 years prior to that date.

The public should nominate people who have the capability to take an active part in the proceedings of Parliament and can speak, read and write – unless incapacitated by blindness or other physical cause – at least English, Malay, Mandarin or Tamil.

Organisations that wish to nominate members for selection should submit their names to the coordinators of the respective functional groups they fall under.

They are: Mr Tony Chew (business and industry), Mr John De Payva (labour), Professor Tan Kok Chai (professions), Ms Ang Bee Lian (social service organisations), Mr Yam Ah Mee (civic and people sector), Professor Tan Chorh Chuan (tertiary educational institutions) and Mr Edmund Cheng (media, arts and sports organisations).

Submissions can be made at the Parliament House located at 1 Parliament Place, Singapore 178880.

The closing date for submission of names is December 8, 2011 at 4.30 pm.

dassa@sph.com.sg

PAP Infighting

A few days ago, Lee Kuan Yew (not MM as he is without appointment in this period as parliament has dissolved) threatened that Aljunied voters would have to regret and repent if they let that GRC fall into WP hands. George Yeo, must have felt frustrated that the old man was more harm than help.

In the main battle of this GE,  George Yeo’s political careeer is in jeopardy as he faces a tough tight WP team. The debate has been predictable, boths sides threatening voters that Aljunied might turn into a slum if they vote WP or Aljunied would be blamed for the loss of a good opposition leader if they vote PAP.

Then Goh Chok Tong suddenly pushed Wong Kan Seng to the front. The latest twist is that the former PM  implied that Wong Kan Seng is not a core member in parliament and that he rather the former Home Affairs minister go than George Yeo. The pressure on George Yeo’s GRC would not be lessen by Goh’s observation. However, Wong Kan Seng would feel more pressure on his GRC from SPP. Rather than making things better for the PAP overall, Goh has made it worse. What the former PM has done is now open a new front in Bishan-Toa Payoh and gave SPP an extra edge.

Why did Goh say that? Probably because the PAP is a party that has internal factions, which is expected for an organisation so huge and so political. What we want to know who is standing with who within the PAP now.

George Yeo too important for Cabinet to lose: SM Goh
04:46 AM May 03, 2011
by Ian De Cotta

SINGAPORE – Foreign Minister George Yeo, who is facing a fierce challenge from the Workers’ Party in the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC), has been described as “too important a person for the Cabinet to lose” by Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.

Singling out Mr Yeo as one of three “very important” core members in the Cabinet – the others being Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean – Mr Goh said yesterday: “There are other core members but these are the three core members who will be very important … (Finance Minister) Tharman (Shanmugaratnam) is too new but will be developed into a core member.”

Speaking after a walkabout in Marine Parade GRC, Mr Goh said a member of the Prime Minister’s core team is picked not only based on the portfolio the minister heads but also his intelligence, competence, ability to deliver results and someone whose judgment can be trusted.

“I’ve run a Government and I know you need a core team. A core team is four or five people, other ministers are important, but you need a core team,” said Mr Goh. “If you lose George Yeo, I think it is a very big loss (for the Cabinet), and to Singapore.”

Elaborating, Mr Goh said the Foreign Minister has played a critical role in the Prime Minister’s team to formulate and implement policies, and will not be easily replaced in the short term if his team loses in the Aljunied GRC.

Said Mr Goh: “If one GRC is lost, as Minister Mentor (Lee Kuan Yew) said, we can accept the result – I agree with that. Sooner or later we are going to lose one. But my view if we lose Aljunied, that is a different matter.”

With Mr Yeo in the middle of negotiating “very delicate agreements” with Indonesia and Malaysia, the loss will even be more telling for Singapore.

Summing up, Mr Goh said: “What mistake has he made? You can take a minister and criticise him for not delivering on perhaps housing and transport.

“Like Wong Kan Seng you can say he let Mas Selamat escape. George Yeo, what has he done to deserve this? And he is a core member.”

Hopefully the Mob Tripped itself when it Kicked Out

Tin Pei Ling bore the brunt of the first wave of bad taste criticisms seen in the usual dark gutters of the internet like Sammyboy and Temasek Review. She is the PAP’s youngest candidate since Tan Soo Khoon who was elected at 27 in Alexandra by winning 75.9% of the votes. Obviously in 1976, it was all single seat constituencies, not GRCs, but casting aspersions on PAP gerrymandering in this blog is for another time.

Fortunately, some dared try to bring reason and credibility back to the Internet. Postmaster-General argued that the mob rants were below the belt, Tribolum lamented that many lost the plot in their malice, Siew Kum Hong posited that the personal attacks were unwarranted and Moto sighed that infantile malice in the Internet is still prevalent. Not all agreed of course e.g. Onesingaporean mused that it is just karma and Rockson, well remained as Rockson.

If this denouncement of the mob attacks on the youngest PAP candidate this GE keeps up, although the mob might still ridicule her for spiteful reasons, the masses would at least respect her for being tough and surviving her PAP Candidate Hell Week. Only if Tin Pei Ling plays it smart and roll with the punches, and gets up again, and again.