Bill To Better Protect Your Personal Data
Some banks, insurance companies and property developers have been selling your personal data to third parties, says University Malaya law professor Abu Bakar Munir.
With it, the parties can bother you with advertisements at the least. Worse is if your data is bought by others who use it to steal your identity and sign up for loans or make purchases.
Abu Bakar, who played an advisory role in the drafting of the soon-to-be tabled Personal Data Protection bill, is confident that the bill, when made into law, will put a stop to such sales of information on individuals.
There is currently no law to stop or curtail such activities, he told In.Tech. “This type of thing has to stop,” he said.
Earlier, Abu Bakar showed a list — containing the personal data of 500 people which he alleged that his friend had purchased from a property developer — to a packed auditorium where the National Conference on Personal Data Protection Law was taking place yesterday.
According to him, the data is sold according to the social and financial standing of the individuals. “The rate for an ordinary person’s details is 10sen. If he’s a Datuk, it’s RM1,” he said. The lists can contain anything from a few hundred to a few thousand names.
The Personal Data Protection bill has been in the works for the past nine years and Abu Bakar blames the delay on interference from the financial sector in the early years.
He said the sector believed then that such a law would be unnecessary because there was enough regulations in place to govern the use of personal data. “This view changed about a year ago after it became clear that the situation was getting out of hand.
“The financial institutions are now behind our efforts to have this law,” Abu Bakar said.
Abu Bakar said the bill calls for the Government to make it illegal for anyone to sell someone else’s personal data without prior consent. “There are stiff penalties for those found guilty of breaching this condition, which include jail terms and hefty fines,” he said.
He could not give a more detailed account of the bill’s content because it is not yet tabled and is covered by the Official Secrets Act.
The bill is scheduled to be tabled in Parliament on Oct 19, according to Senator Heng Seai Kie, Deputy Information, Communications and Culture Minister 2, who officiated at the conference.
Heng said the drafting and enactment of a law that regulates the collection, processing and storage of people’s personal data is critical in this age of e-commerce.
“We have read horrifying stories about people losing their money due to credit card fraud, customer-privacy infringements and data theft,” she said. “Such incidents threaten the integrity of Malaysia as an emerging market economy.”
“Without clear rights and obligations on the collection and storing of personal data, individuals (inside and outside the country) will be reluctant to carry out (electronic) transactions,” she added.
Heng said the country is also embarassed when incidents involving someone’s personal data falling into the wrong hands occur. Then, there are the financial and legal liabilities that rear up as well.
She reminded businesses that any personal data that is collected belongs to the individual and that the companies do not have the right to redistribute such information. She said the onus is on these businesses to protect such information on behalf of the individuals.
“We must have a law that enforces this,” she said.
Heng hopes the Personal Data Protection bill will be gazetted into law by early next year.
The bill was drafted by a group that includes representatives from the Attorney-General’s chambers, the former Ministry of Water, Energy and Communications, as well as the academia.
Sonny Zulhuda, 33, a law lecturer at the Multimedia University who chaired the conference, said the sale of personal data is not just a Malaysian problem. “It’s a bane worldwide. The new law will definitely help all of us,” he said.
Conference attendee Sharifah Afas, 28, group general counsel for Malaysia Airlines Bhd group legal practices, sees the selling of personal data as worrying. “Also, people would think twice before doing online transactions,” she said.
Another attendee, Teh Tai Yong, 28, said he was surprised to get a phone call from an insurance company shortly after applying for a credit card recently.
“It could have been coincidence but these occurences are quite rampant. They should be stopped,” said the advocate and solicitor for Teh Kim Teh, Salina and Co.