Sunday September 30, 2012
Woes mount as data protection enforcement sits idle
By HARIATI AZIZAN
PETALING JAYA: Have you gone a day without receiving irritating phone calls, SMS or email messages offering personal loans, free medical check-up or new credit cards?
If your answer is “No”, you are not alone; thousands of Malaysians are bombarded with such messages daily.
If you have received many unsolicited sales calls and messages daily, then it is also likely that your data has been collected and sold to a third party without your consent.
A check of the classified sections of a few dailies by Sunday Star showed that there are still individuals and organisations who are offering databases of personal information for sale despite the public uproar they have caused in the past.
According to the National Consumer Complaints Centre (NCCC), which have received complaints from many consumers inundated with unsolicited calls and SMSes coaxing them to buy a service or goods, the main reason for this abuse is that Malaysia has yet to enforce the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) although it was gazetted into law in June 2010.
“The law needs to be enforced as many unscrupulous people are taking advantage of this situation to use people's personal data for transactions without their knowledge,” said NCCC senior manager Matheevani Marathandan.
Under the PPDA, it is a crime for companies to use an individual's personal data for commercial transactions without his or her consent.
It also prohibits the selling and buying of personal data.
The offence carries a maximum fine of RM500,000, a three-year jail term or both.
Prof Abu Bakar Munir, a professor of law at Universiti Malaya who was also involved in the drafting of the PDPA, said it is urgent that the Act be implemented soon.
“Personal data is the new currency of the digital world, so people are concerned about their privacy,” said Prof Abu Bakar, who was one of the speakers at a recent media forum on the PDPA's enforcement hosted by security firm Symantec.
Campaign Against Spam SMS spokesman Lim Chong Wei said the PDPA should have been enforced earlier.
“The problem is that there is too little enforcement,” he said, adding that the lack of enforcement has kept SMS spam high on the list of complaints to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission in the last few years.